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Male sagegrouse gather at a lek in Central Montana and perform competitive displays to attract females.

Sage Grouse Initiative - Montana

Apply by: October 27, 2023

NRCS offers the Sage Grouse Initiative to help private landowners improve and enhance sage-grouse habitat and the sustainability of working ranches and farms in the western United States.

In Montana, the EQIP Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) is focused on 4 primary rangeland threats to wildlife and working lands. These threats are:

  • Woodland expansion
    In the sagebrush biome conifers are expanding into sagebrush rangelands threatening wildlife habitat and diminishing livestock forage.
    Conservation Objective: Restore sagebrush rangelands through removal of encroaching conifers.
  • Exotic annual grass invasion
    The invasion of annual exotic grasses causes the conversion of native plant communities to monocultures that don’t meet wildlife and livestock forage needs.
    Conservation Objective: Reduce threat of annual grass invasion.
  • Land use conversion
    The conversion of native rangeland results in direct habitat loss and fragmentation.
    Conservation Objective: Avoid further loss of sagebrush grazing lands and/or restore already converted rangeland.
  • Riparian and wet meadow degradation
    Today, wet habitats cover less than 2% of the western landscape, with 75% located on private land. Protecting and restoring these scarce resources is a vital step to conserving the sagebrush ecosystem and working lands.
    Conservation Objective: Restore and enhance degraded mesic and riparian habitats.

Eligible Conservation Practices

  • 224 Aquifer Flow Test
  • 314 Brush Management
  • 315 Herbaceous Weed Control
  • 327 Conservation Cover
  • 338 Prescribed Burning
  • 340 Cover Crops
  • 342 Critical Area Planting
  • 378 Pond
  • 380 Windbreak/Shelterbelt Establishment
  • 382 Fence
  • 383 Fuel Break
  • 384 Woody Residue Treatment
  • 390 Riparian Herbaceous Cover
  • 391 Riparian Forest Buffer 
  • 394 Fire Break 
  • 410 Grade Stabilization
  • 420 Wildlife Habitat Planting
  • 441 Irrigation System, Micro Irrigation
  • 472 Access Control
  • 484 Mulching
  • 490 Tree/Shrub Site Preparation
  • 500 Obstruction Removal
  • 511 Forest Harvest Management
  • 512 Forage and Biomass Plantings
  • 516 Livestock Pipeline
  • 521 Pond Sealing or Lining, Geomembrane or Geosynthetic Clay Liner
  • 528 Prescribed Grazing
  • 533 Pumping Plant
  • 548 Grazing Land Mechanical Treatment
  • 550 Range Planting
  • 560 Access Road
  • 561 Heavy Use Area Protection 
  • 574 Spring Development
  • 576 Livestock Structure Shelter
  • 580 Streambank and Shoreline Protection
  • 584 Channel Bed Stabilization
  • 587 Structure for Water Control
  • 595 Integrated Pest Management
  • 612 Tree/Shrub Establishment
  • 614 Watering Facility
  • 642 Water Well
  • 643 Restoration on Rare or Declining Natural Communities
  • 644 Wetland Wildlife Habitat Management
  • 645 Upland Wildlife Habitat Management* - core practice
  • 649 Structures for Wildlife
  • 657 Wetland Restoration

*645, Upland Wildlife Habitat Management must be included in all conservation plans developed for the Sage Grouse Initiative. It does not have to be contracted. 

Detailed information on conservation practice standards and specifications can be found in Section 4 of the Field Office Technical Guide.

When to Apply

Program applications are accepted on a continual basis. However, NRCS establishes application ranking dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. Applications received after the ranking date will be automatically deferred to the next funding period. See Montana Programs and Application Dates.

Additional Montana Information

The Sage Grouse Initiative in Montana is funded through the Montana Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Sage Grouse Initiative - Working Lands for Wildlife

Ready to get started?

Contact your local service center to start your application.

Find Your Local Service Center

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How to Get Assistance

Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?

Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.

how to get started

To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.

NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.

We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:

  • To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
  • To meet other eligibility certifications.

Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.

Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.

As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:

  • An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
  • A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
  • A farm number.

If you don’t have a farm number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm number if you’re interested in financial assistance.

NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants. View Application Ranking Dates by State.

If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.

Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.