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News Release

New Report Highlights Successes of Protecting Bird Habitat on Private Lands

Ron Brooks, Resource Conservationist

Private Landowners Improve Sage-Grouse Habitat in Idaho

Additional Contact:
Alexis Collins, Public Affairs Specialist, 208.685.6978

A photo of a Sage-grouseBOISE, IDAHO, July 5, 2013— The newly released State of the Birds 2013 Report on Private Lands shows how private land conservation incentives positively impact bird habitat. One program highlighted in the report is the Sage-Grouse Initiative offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and its partners.

“Farm Bill programs like the Sage-Grouse Initiative have increased voluntary conservation measures for sage-grouse in Idaho,” said NRCS Idaho State Conservationist Jeff Burwell. “The program goes well beyond our state, extending to 11 western states with sage-grouse populations".

The Sage-Grouse Initiative started in 2010 and targets lands where habitats are still intact and sage-grouse numbers are highest. In Idaho, the funds help ranchers employ targeted conservation practices to improve sage-grouse habitat and rangelands.

For example, the NRCS initiative helps ranchers develop and implement grazing plans that may include deferred grazing in sensitive areas. Other planned activities could be installing fences to improve pasture management or protect wet meadows critical to chick rearing or removing juniper to reduce the competition for native plants used by grouse and other wildlife. The Initiative also provides funding for enrolling land in conservation easements.

The bird is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act with a decision date of 2015. If it is listed, increased regulations could directly impact ranching operations.

“We hope the voluntary work carried out by western landowners will keep sage-grouse off the endangered species list,” Burwell said. “The success stories highlighted in the State of the Birds report demonstrate that voluntary efforts on private lands are resulting in meaningful bird conservation".

The programs emphasized in the report help build partnerships to conserve vital habitat of many bird species, including sage-grouse.  “We have great partners that help NRCS carry out the Sage-Grouse Initiative,” Burwell said. Among those partners are The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever, local soil and water conservation districts, regional land trusts, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game as well as other state and federal agencies.   

The report is a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, involving federal and state wildlife agencies and scientific and conservation organizations. The State of the Birds 2013 Report on Private Lands shows that private lands have critical conservation value.

The full State of the Birds 2013 Report on Private Lands is available at For more information about the Sage Grouse Initiative visit


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