Sage Grouse Initiative Strengthened Through Partnership with IWJV

Greater Sage-Grouse, token species of the Sage Grouse Initiative.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) received $20 million in FY 2011 for Strategic Watershed Action Teams (SWAT) to build the capacity needed to successfully accomplish the goals of 10 on-the-ground Conservation Initiatives that have been established across the country, including the Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI). These initiatives target key resource concerns such as at-risk wildlife, water quality, and forestry. NRCS subsequently entered into a partnership with the IWJV to strengthen the on-the-ground capacity for the SGI.

NRCS provided $7 million to the IWJV, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), to establish the SGI SWAT. The IWJV used these funds to leverage another $3.6 million from state fish and wildlife agencies, FWS, non-governmental organizations, Conservation Districts, a corporation, and other local partners. The IWJV will coordinate the SGI SWAT through a $10.6 million NRCS-FWS Interagency Agreement.

The SGI SWAT provides funding to establish 23 range conservationists and wildlife biologist positions and one cultural resource specialist on three-year terms at critical “pinch points” where a lack of field staff is limiting sage-grouse habitat conservation. The SWAT also provides funding to develop priority decision support tools and outcomes-based research.

“SGI has catalyzed an amazing level of commitment for sagebrush steppe conservation from many partners,” said Tim Griffiths, NRCS Sage-Grouse Initiative Coordinator. “The SWAT builds longevity and durability into SGI by developing field-level implementation capacity and science-based products through partnerships.”

The IWJV is sponsoring a week of training this fall for all new hires that will focus on SGI, sage-grouse and sagebrush ecology and conservation, Farm Bill programs, how to work with private landowners, and more. Follow-up training webinars, conference calls and workshops will follow.

For information on the SGI SWAT, contact Dave Smith, IWJV Coordinator. For information on the SGI SWAT field delivery positions, contact Randy Gray, SGI Field Delivery Capacity Coordinator.

Dave Smith is Coordinator of the Intermountain West Joint Venture.