FORT COLLINS, Colo. (February 12, 2015) – Today, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) pledged $200 million over 4 years to continue its Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI), an ongoing effort to work with private landowners to protect Greater Sage-Grouse habitat. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also released a report with five years’ worth of SGI’s conservation results across 11 Western states.

“Saving the Greater Sage-Grouse would save the entire sagebrush ecosystem and the livelihoods of the folks who depend on it," said Brian Rutledge, Policy Advisor and VP of Audubon Rockies. "Bringing private landowners on board is imperative and the Natural Resources Conservation Service is working hard to address this opportunity that can be a win-win for all involved. We look forward to the day when state policy-makers across the region emulate this level of cooperation and leadership."

Created in 2010 to reduce threats to sage-grouse on privately-held lands, SGI has since worked with 1,129 ranches to conserve 4.4 million acres of land (equivalent to two Yellow Stone National Parks). The science-based, landscape approach to conservation involves removing conifer trees, applying sustainable grazing systems, reseeding sagebrush, and responsible fencing, all part of a voluntary program for Western landowners who qualify for the program. Funding for SGI comes from the Farm Bill and other partners and will total $751 million after today’s infusion.

The Greater Sage-Grouse is considered a keystone species for the entire sagebrush ecosystem, since sufficient conservation efforts for the bird would in effect protect an additional 350 species of wildlife as well as the viability of the agricultural landscape. The bird is a candidate for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection, for which the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) must make a listing decision by September 2015. Before that deadline, FWS officials must judge whether state and federal plans for 11 Western states are sufficiently strong enough to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse without an ESA listing. 

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The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization.