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New Report Highlights Successes of Protecting Bird Habitat on Private Lands

Lori Valadez

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 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its partners.

“The Sage-Grouse Initiative has increased voluntary conservation measures for sage-grouse in Montana,” said Joyce Swartzendruber, NRCS state conservationist for Montana. “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 Montana, the funds help ranchers employ targeted conservation practices to improve sage-grouse habitat and rangelands.

NRCS in Montana has obligated more than $13.6 million through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program for ranchers to develop and implement grazing plans for pasture management on 560,000 acres, including deferred grazing in sage-grouse sensitive areas. Montana ranchers have also marked 148 miles of fence to reduce bird-fence collisions. They are also removing juniper to reduce the competition for native plants used by sage-grouse and other wildlife and installing wildlife escape ramps in stockwater tanks. Montana NRCS has also enrolled 47,000 acres of critical sage-grouse habitat in conservation easements.

Sage-grouse is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act with a decision date of 2015.

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

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