Sage-Grouse Habitat Improvement Initiative
The cutoff date for applications this fiscal year was April 23, 2010
USDA has made available up to $16 million in financial assistance through EQIP and WHIP, in the 11 western states with sage-grouse, to help landowners willing to work to reduce threats to sage-grouse on their land. The overarching goals of this initiative are to improve or restore sage-grouse habitat and demonstrate that sage-grouse conservation is compatible with the sustainability of working ranches.
The Oregon Sage-Grouse Habitat Improvement Initiative, developed collaboratively with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, focuses on making measurable and significant progress toward treating a specific threat to sage-grouse on private lands through strategic use of conservation programs. This approach is based on the principle that focusing resources on a specific problem in the most critical locations on the landscape results in the highest likelihood of affecting sage-grouse populations in the shortest amount of time. Details can be found in the Oregon Implementation Plan.
Financial Assistance Available for Juniper Removal in Sage-Grouse Habitat
Targeted Threat to Sage-Grouse: Juniper Expansion
The sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling bird native to the sagebrush steppe ecosystem of the American West, has experienced a significant decline in population and habitat over several decades. Sage-grouse are found in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The birds are highly dependent on sagebrush for cover and food and historically could be found anywhere sagebrush existed.
Since the late 1800’s, juniper has subtly been invading vast acreages of rangeland in eastern Oregon that were once dominated by sagebrush, grasses, and forbs. Juniper is now estimated to occur on more than 5 million acres in the state. Although juniper is a native plant, fire suppression and other factors have allowed this tree to expand to sites it never occupied historically. As juniper expands its range, it gradually results in a number of resource problems, such as reduced forage production, increased soil erosion, altered wildlife habitat, and reduced stream and spring flows.
Besides affecting a rancher’s bottom line by reducing forage production, juniper invasion is severely impacting rangeland wildlife like mule deer and sage-grouse. These wildlife species depend primarily upon the shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers that are lost when trees move in. Sage-grouse, in particular, are sensitive to juniper invasion and their range has shrunk dramatically due to the loss of habitat to trees.
Early Intervention Is the Key
Once junipers become dense and mature, the understory grasses and shrubs die out and it becomes much more difficult and expensive to restore forage production and reverse other resource problems. However, areas that are still in the early phases of juniper invasion often retain a large component of grasses and shrubs. This provides an opportunity to reverse resource degradation relatively inexpensively through the removal of young trees.
Focus of Financial Assistance
In Oregon, this initiative will focus primarily on providing financial assistance for removal of juniper in the early stages of succession (Phase I & II) to alleviate the threat of juniper expansion to sage-grouse and prevent further resource degradation. Other threats to sage-grouse may be addressed concurrently in juniper treatment areas if present, such as, invasive weeds, problematic fences, stock water troughs without wildlife escape ramps, and inadequate herbaceous cover. Juniper treatment will be particularly encouraged in high priority sage-grouse habitat areas (See Sage-Grouse map) and adjacent areas with known sage-grouse use. The initiative includes the following counties: Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Harney, Lake and Malheur.
Photo: Example of Phase I - II stage juniper invasion site that is the focus of this initiative.
Financial assistance will be provided through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Program participants may choose to do the work themselves or hire it out. NRCS reimburses participants a set rate upon successful completion of the practice.
At a minimum, applicants and their land must meet the eligibility requirements for EQIP or WHIP. Eligible applications are ranked and compete against other projects for funding. Generally, higher preference for juniper management will be given for projects located in high priority sage-grouse habitat.
Click here for additional Sage-Grouse Initiative ranking information.
2010 Sage-Grouse Initiative Practice Payment List
Example Conservation Practice Payments for 2010:
Mechanical Juniper Removal ~ $141 per acre
In the News
How to Apply
Interested participants can apply for assistance through NRCS at the local USDA Service Center. NRCS field office phone numbers for counties with High Priority Sage-Grouse Habitat:
Crook Counties............................ 541-923-4358
Lake County................................. 541-947-2367
Harney County............................. 541-573-6446
Malheur County........................... 541-889-7637
Baker County................................ 541-523-7121
State Habitat Biologist
Phone: 541-923-4358, ext. 109