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Male sage grouse

Six applications have been submitted for conservation work to protect sage grouse habitat in Montana.

Six applications for grant funds to improve habitat for sage grouse will be discussed at the Sept. 18 meeting of the Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team.

At the meeting, to be held from 1-3 p.m. in Room 152 at the Montana State Capitol in Helena, MSGOT will decide whether to award funds from the Sage Grouse Stewardship Account. 

The account provides a source of competitive grant funding for voluntary, incentive-based conservation projects that maintain, enhance, restore and create benefits for sage grouse habitat and populations on private lands. At the same time, these projects create mitigation sites that can be used to offset impacts of development elsewhere.

The six applications received in 2019 are:

• The Garfield County Conservation District submitted an application for a combined restoration and 30-year term lease on 12,901 acres of the Burgess Ranch in Garfield County near Haxby Point. Restoration work entails reseeding cropland back to native rangeland and active sagebrush restoration. This project would conserve a combination of core and general habitat.

• The Petroleum County Conservation District submitted two applications for projects in central Montana. One proposal is for a 30-year term lease on 11,703 acres of the King Ranch. The other proposal is for a 25-year term lease on 6,367 acres and additional restoration to reseed old cropland back to rangeland on the Schultz- Gran Prairie Ranch. Both projects are located west of Winnett, and would conserve core habitat for the duration of the term leases.

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• The Nature Conservancy submitted an application to enter into a permanent conservation easement with the Willow Basin Ranch to conserve 3,988 acres of sage grouse core habitat in Beaverhead County near Dell.

• The Montana Land Reliance submitted two applications to enter into permanent conservation easements with the Sauerbier Ranch on 7,697 acres in Madison and Beaverhead counties near Alder, and with the Marc Lewis family on 3,733 acres near Grass Range in Fergus and Petroleum counties, respectively. Both projects would conserve habitat in core areas.

The 2015 Montana Legislature created the grant opportunity when it passed the Greater Sage Grouse Stewardship Act. During the first grant cycle in 2016-2017, MSGOT awarded about $3 million. Stewardship Fund dollars were leveraged with $6.6 million of federal and private funds to conserve 40,806 acres of sage grouse habitat.

All meeting materials are available on MSGOT’s meeting web page. See https://sagegrouse.mt.gov/Team.

The Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program works to sustain viable sage grouse populations and conserve habitat, enabling Montanans to maintain control of their lands, wildlife, and economy by avoiding a listing of the greater sage grouse under the federal Endangered Species Act. 

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