Skip Navigation

Sage Grouse Initiative

Overview

The NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) is part of the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) efforts to address the needs of national and state-identified target species and projects. WLFW is a partnership between the NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that leverages capabilities and resources, targets assistance where it is most needed, cooperatively engages state and local partners, and works collaboratively with agricultural producers, forest land managers, and Tribes.

NRCS launched the initiative in 2010 as a targeted and science-based landscape approach to proactively conserve sage-grouse and sustain the working rangelands that support western ranching economies. This innovative partnership of ranchers, agencies, universities, non-profit groups and businesses all embrace a common vision – achieving wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching.

Sagebrush county is the home to the greater sage-grouse and hundreds of other species that depend on this iconic landscape. The sage grouse, a chicken-like bird uniquely adapted to this habitat, is the poster child of the sagebrush country and is best known for its early-morning dance during mating season.

Large-scale conversion of native rangelands to cultivated fields, housing and energy developments, invading conifers, and catastrophic wildfires have fragmented this vital landscape, reducing its size by half. And many species, including the sage grouse, have seen substantial declines from historic numbers as a result.

Stewardship-minded ranchers are helping reverse this decline by conserving and enhancing sagebrush habitat. And their conservation practices benefit more than just wildlife. They are improving the long-term sustainability of their grazing lands. As the saying goes, “what’s good for the bird is good for the herd.”

NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to help ranchers voluntarily conserve sage grouse habitat on private lands. to focus on increasing and improving occupied, suitable, and potential breeding habitat, to support sage grouse recovery. This assistance helps producers plan and implement a variety of conservation activities, or practices, that benefit the bird and agricultural operations.

In addition to California, WLFW identified habitat for sage grouse conservation efforts in ten other states: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The following sections include the applicable land uses, resource concerns, and conservation practices for the ranking pool.

Land Uses

The descriptions below are the general NRCS land use definitions - applications should fit within, but do not need to exactly match, these descriptions. Below are the applicable land uses for the ranking pool.

  • Crop: Land used primarily for the production and harvest of annual or perennial field, forage, food, fiber, horticultural, orchard, vineyard, or energy crops.
  • Pasture: Land composed of introduced or domesticated native forage species that is used primarily for the production of livestock. Pastures receive periodic renovation and cultural treatments, such as tillage, fertilization, mowing, weed control, and may be irrigated. Pastures are not in rotation with crops.
  • Range: Land used primarily for the production of grazing animals. Includes native plant communities and those seeded to native or introduced species, or naturalized by introduced species that are ecologically managed using range management principles.
  • Farmstead: Land used for facilities and supporting infrastructure where farming, forestry, animal husbandry, and ranching activities are often initiated. This may include dwellings, equipment storage, plus farm input and output storage and handling facilities.
  • Associated Agricultural Lands: Land associated with farms and ranches that are not purposefully managed for food, forage, or fiber and are typically associated with nearby production or conservation lands. This could include incidental areas, such as odd areas, ditches and watercourses, riparian areas, field edges, seasonal and permanent wetlands, and other similar areas.
  • Irrigated: Where an operational irrigation system is present and managed to supply irrigation water.
  • Grazed: Where grazing animals impact how land is managed.
  • Wildlife: Where the applicant is actively managing for wildlife.

Resource Concerns

The goal of conservation planning is to help each client attain sustainable use and sound management of soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources, based on related human considerations (SWAPAE+H).  Below is a list of priority resource concerns for the ranking pool.

SWAPAE+H
Resource Concern Category
Resource Concern
Plants
Degraded Plant Condition
Plant productivity and health
Plant structure and composition
Terrestrial Habitat
Terrestrial habitat for wildlife and invertebrates

Conservation Practices

NRCS conservation practices eligible for financial assistance through this ranking pool are listed in the below table. For more information about NRCS conservation practices visit the following website link: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/technical/?cid=NRCSDEV11_001020.

Table 1. Core Conservation Practices

Practice Code
Conservation Practice Name
Units
Lifespan
645
Upland Wildlife Habitat Management
ac
1

 

Table 2. Supporting Conservation Practices

Practice Code
Supporting Conservation Practice Name
Units
Lifespan
314
Brush Management
ac
10
315
Herbaceous Weed Control
ac
5
327
Conservation Cover
ac
5
328
Conservation Crop Rotation
ac
1
338
Prescribed Burning
ac
1
340
Cover Crop
ac
1
342
Critical Area Planting
ac
10
378
Pond
no
20
380
Windbreak/Shelterbelt Establishment
ft
15
382
Fence
ft
20
383
Fuel Break
ac
10
384
Woody Residue Treatment
ac
10
388
Irrigation Field Ditch
ft
15
390
Riparian Herbaceous Cover
ac
5
391
Riparian Forest Buffer
ac
15
394
Firebreak
ft
5
410
Grade Stabilization Structure
no
15
430
Irrigation Pipeline
ft
20
441
Irrigation System, Microirrigation
ac
15
442
Sprinkler System
ac
15
443
Irrigation System, Surface and Subsurface
ac
15
449
Irrigation Water Management
ac
1
472
Access Control
ac
10
484
Mulching
ac
1
500
Obstruction Removal
ac
10
511
Forage Harvest Management
ac
1
512
Forage and Biomass Planting
ac
5
516
Livestock Pipeline
ft
20
528
Prescribed Grazing
ac
1
533
Pumping Plant
no
15
548
Grazing Land Mechanical Treatment
ac
1
550
Range Planting
ac
5
561
Heavy Use Area Protection
ac
10
574
Spring Development
no
20
576
Livestock Structure Shelter
no
10
580
Streambank and Shoreline Protection
ft
20
587
Structure for Water Control
no
20
595
Integrated Pest Management
ac
1
595
Wetland Enhancement
ac
15
614
Watering Facility
no
20
642
Water Well
no
20
643
Restoration and Management of Rare or Declining Habitats
ac
1
644
Wetland Wildlife Habitat Management
ac
1
649
Structures for Wildlife
no
5
654
Road/Trail/Landing Closure and Treatment
ft
10
657
Westland Restoration
ac
15