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Greater Sage-grouse Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative

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USDA unveils new strategy to conserve sage grouse habitat on private lands

Thumbnail of 2015 Sage Grouse reportSage Grouse Initiative 2.0 provides a four-year roadmap for investing approximately $211 million in sage grouse conservation efforts.

Read August 27, 2015 press release.
Download Sage Grouse 2.0 strategy. (PDF, 4.2MB)  


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.”

Ranchers are part of a range-wide collaborative effort to voluntarily aid the sage grouse and the sagebrush landscape, an effort credited with enabling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine in 2015 that protections under the Endangered Species Act were not needed for the species. NRCS is working with nearly 1,500 landowners in 11 Western states to improve habitat for sage grouse while also improving ranching operations.

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

How Does SGI Work?

NRCS uses Farm Bill conservation programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), to provide technical and financial assistance to help ranchers accelerate installation of conservation practices on the ground. Conservation practices are designed to be win-win solutions addressing threats facing both sage-grouse and rangelands. This type of conservation work includes: developing grazing management practices to maintain nesting cover, removing encroaching conifers that have invaded sagebrush-steppe, securing conservation easements to keep working lands working as intact range in perpetuity, and making fences more visible to reduce sage grouse collisions.

NRCS’ sage grouse conservation efforts are part of Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), the agency’s effort to accelerate conservation efforts for at-risk species while providing regulatory predictability for up to 30 years. 

How Does SGI Benefit Producers?

Conserving and enhancing habitat benefits ranchers and sage grouse alike. On the ground conservation work provides better forage and grazing lands for livestock, and tools like conservation easements help ranchers keep their land intact long-term. Additionally, participating ranchers receive peace of mind knowing their conservation practices are in compliance with ESA regulations in case the species is listed in the future. 

How Does SGI Benefit The Public?

SGI is an ecosystem-based approach to wildlife conservation. Working with partners, we are conserving habitat for sage grouse, as well as pronghorn, mule deer, elk, songbirds, and 350 other species that share the same landscape. All while helping to manage vast, intact ranchlands in ways that also create more nutritious forage for livestock. SGI’s conservation efforts also protect critical water resources, important in an era of drought and water shortages that impact communities across the West. 


Partners are key to SGI success. Over 100 partners are pooling resources, expertise and strengths  offsite link image     to accomplish SGI’s vision of achieving wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching. Unprecedented cooperation aims to recover sage grouse and sustain a healthy sagebrush-steppe using proactive and sustainable strategies. Diverse partners include conservation districts, nongovernmental organizations, private corporations, land trusts, state agencies, universities and federal agencies.


Click here to view list of available publications.

Wyoming Info

Applicants will complete a Threat Checklist to determine the number and type of threats associated with sage-grouse habitat. This checklist also helps identify the treatments that a producer is ready, willing, and able to implement. 

Applications will be prioritized and ranked based on criteria such as: identified threats that will be addressed in the contract, percent of the operation to be enrolled, and location of the operation in relation to the core, current, or historic sage-grouse range.

Interested producers may apply for a Conservation Activity Plan (110 Grazing Management Plan) under EQIP. Under this option, a Technical Service Provider works with the producer to develop a Grazing Management Plan on the participant’s operation as a single, stand-alone program contract. The plan must be developed within 12 months after obligation. A subsequent application for EQIP or WHIP to contract implementation of structural practices may be considered.

The following practices are available under this special initiative. Applicants should work with their local Natural Resources Conservation Service staff to select and design appropriate practices that will improve rangeland health or benefit sage-grouse habitat directly.

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Jamison Jewkes, Program Specialist, 307-233-6762