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  Release No. 0288.11
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  USDA To Protect Prime Sage-Grouse Habitat In Three Western States
 

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2011 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide approximately $18.2 million in additional financial assistance to help eligible ranchers in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming conserve critical sage-grouse habitats through the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP).

"USDA and its partners are taking a proactive approach to maintaining large and intact grazing lands that support healthy sage-grouse populations," Vilsack said. "GRP will provide these states with another tool to conserve this at-risk species and also protect important ranch lands."

Below is the financial assistance funding allotted to each state:

Idaho - $5.5 million

Utah - $2.3 million

Wyoming - $10.4 million

Total - $18.2 million

GRP, a voluntary program, allows ranchers and farmers to limit future development of the land while retaining the right for landowners to conduct common grazing practices and operations using rental contracts and conservation easements. USDA directs financial resources and technical expertise to help landowners protect and restore these lands. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency administer GRP.

For the first time this fiscal year, USDA will be dedicating a portion of GRP funding solely to protect sage-grouse habitat. This announcement means that GRP is now formally included among the conservation programs used for USDA's Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI). Launched in 2010, SGI has become an extremely successful effort in the West by targeting funding toward the removal of threats in the most important places where sage-grouse numbers remain high. Eligible ranchers in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming can use this funding to maintain large and intact sagebrush grazing lands, which allows sage-grouse populations to thrive.

In addition to the GRP funds announced today, USDA provided $53 million earlier this fiscal year to eligible ranchers through conservation programs, including the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program. Using these programs ranchers are implementing conservation practices that conserve grasslands that benefit sage-grouse in 11 states: California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

For information about NRCS conservation programs, please visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.

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