The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) last week announced $724,200 in grants to support habitat restoration and partnerships in sagebrush landscapes conservation in Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The grants will generate $1.1million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of more than $1.8 million.
The sagebrush sea, as it is often referred to, is a vast, largely treeless ecosystem dominated by native bunch grasses and shrubs. These landscapes are home to more than 350 plant and animal species, many of which are uniquely adapted to, and only found in, sagebrush. Poor management and fragmentation from development and invasive species have taken their toll on the sagebrush system, reducing it by roughly half its original extent.
The six grants announced today will help coordinate local restoration efforts that need to occur on private, federal and state-owned lands, leading to landscape-level impacts. The projects will work toward sagebrush conservation through partnership and restoration efforts that address improving management across public and private lands and restoring and enhancing wet meadow and riparian areas. Wet meadow and riparian habitats make up a very small percentage of the overall sage landscape, but have disproportionate benefits for ranching and wildlife.
“We are excited about the successful launch of the Sagebrush Landscapes Program with this first round of grants,” said Chris West, rocky mountain regional office director, NFWF. “The continued interest in this new program is a very positive sign for the future, and the six projects supported this year are impressive in their scope and will help to catalyze partnership efforts across the sagebrush sea. We look forward to working with our partners in growing this program to support more of this kind of vital conservation work.”
The grants were awarded through the Sagebrush Landscapes Program, a partnership between NFWF and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services – Montana (NRCS).
The Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District, one of the six grant recipients, will support landscape-scale restoration projects that improve wet meadow habitats, and enhance project coordination, knowledge and technology transfer, to benefit the federally listed Gunnison Sage-Grouse’s range in southwestern Colorado. The District in partnership with numerous conservation agencies and organizations will use local knowledge and the best available science to select and prioritize restoration sites, deploy a toolbox of restoration techniques as well as reach out to the local ranching community through workshops.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pleased to join with NFWF and our public and private partners to support a healthy sagebrush ecosystem,” said Noreen Walsh, FWS Mountain-Prairie regional director. “NFWF’s Sagebrush Landscapes Program will provide our partners with vital resources to deliver on-the-ground projects that directly benefit wildlife, habitats and people across sagebrush country.”
The Sagebrush Landscapes program is designed to complement numerous ongoing conservation efforts such as NRCS’s Sage Grouse Initiative and BLM’s Partnering to Conserve Sagebrush Rangelands effort. This is the first year of funding for the Sagebrush Landscapes Program and it is anticipated that the funding opportunity will solicit request for proposals on an annual basis.
A complete list of the 2017 grants made through the Sagebrush Landscapes Program is available here.