Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): habitat exchange

$2 million available for Nevada landowners to earn revenue through sage-grouse pilots

sage grouseLast week, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Department of the Interior Secretary Sally announced their support for sage-grouse pilot projects on private and public lands through the Nevada Conservation Credit System. With that announcement came an impressive commitment of $2 million to fund the pilots.

The Nevada Conservation Credit System is now seeking to enroll land managers, namely ranchers, in projects that can earn them new revenue for a variety of conservation activities that improve sage-grouse habitat.

A catalyst for Nevada’s conservation market Read More »

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USDA taps ranchers to continue stewarding sage-grouse habitat

greater sage grouseU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a four-year strategy to invest more that $200 million in greater sage-grouse conservation efforts.

The strategy, known as Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, will build on successful public and private conservation efforts to improve sage-grouse habitat by providing additional assistance for ranchers to make conservation improvements to their land.

It’s encouraging to see USDA remaining at the forefront of federal efforts to move sage-grouse protection forward. This funding is a huge boost for sage-grouse, but there are opportunities through emerging programs for impact industries to do even more to protect this iconic bird. Read More »

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The devastation of the Soda Fire, and the seeds of hope for the future

soda fire

Wildlife warning sign on Highway 95.

My family and I returned home to California a few days ago following an idyllic week camping on Payette Lake near McCall, Idaho. Our route home took us down Highway 95 in southwestern Idaho, a road typically bordered by the beautiful farmlands of the Snake River Basin. But our views weren’t so picturesque.

Just south of Nampa, Idaho we began to notice the charred landscape left behind by the Soda Fire, the largest of recent fires burning across the United States. The Soda Fire has burned more than 280,000 acres of prime sagebrush steppe, which provides key grazing lands for cattle ranchers and important habitat for threatened wildlife like the greater sage-grouse.

As I gazed upon the aftermath of the fire, all I could think about was the devastating effects it has had on local ranching families and wildlife. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to restore these scorched landscapes and prevent damaging wildfires in the future, but we have to act fast. Read More »

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With the launching of a new market, he’s a vanguard of grouse conservation in Wyoming

Eric Peterson

Eric Peterson has been hired to fill a new position as pilot administrator of the Wyoming Conservation Exchange.

A landowner-led conservation effort in Wyoming has sparked a new market and has now created a new job.

The University of Wyoming recently announced the hiring of a new pilot administrator of the Wyoming Conservation Exchange, a voluntary, market-based program that seeks to enroll local landowners in landscape-scale conservation of greater sage-grouse, mule deer and hydrologic services.

Eric was formerly manager of the Sublette County Conservation District, where he played a critical role in developing the Wyoming Conservation Exchange with partners from the University of Wyoming, Environmental Defense Fund, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and the Wyoming chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

In his new role, Eric will work with potential buyers and sellers of conservation credits to facilitate pilot transactions and market growth.

I asked Eric to share some thoughts on what drew him to this role and what he hopes to achieve over the next few months.

Read More »

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Operation Warbler: Fort Hood and local ranchers team up to save bird

Dr. Gene Murph stands in front of prime golden-cheeked warbler habitat on his Texas ranch

Dr. Gene Murph stands in front of prime golden-cheeked warbler habitat on his Texas ranch

I’m going to take you back to 2005, to a ranch in the Texas Hill Country, where Dr. Gene Murph operates an 80-head cattle operation on 1,300 acres of rangeland.

The ranch is vast, with rolling hills and wooded ravines. The only sounds on the ranch are those of cattle mooing in the pastures and birds trilling in the trees. If you listen closely enough, you can hear the signature call of the golden-cheeked warbler. If you look closely enough, you can spot the bird’s sunshine-yellow face.

The golden-cheeked warbler was listed as an endangered species in 1990, making Dr. Murph’s ranch a vital stronghold for subpopulations, which nest at select sites scattered throughout 33 counties in central Texas.

Another nearby stronghold for the bird is the Fort Hood Army Base, only a few miles down the road from Dr. Murph’s ranch and home to the largest known population of golden-cheeked warblers. Read More »

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Feds call for cooperative conservation on sage grouse, states deliver

"An unprecedented, collaborative effort" was a blog published last week by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, BLM Director Neil Kornze, USFS Chief Tom Tidwell and NRCS Chief Jason Weller

An unprecedented, collaborative effort” was a blog published last week in The Hill by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, BLM Director Neil Kornze, USFS Chief Tom Tidwell and NRCS Chief Jason Weller.

Last week, leaders of the four federal agencies dealing most closely with issues surrounding the greater sage-grouse delivered a strong public message: As long as stakeholders continue to work together, we can save this bird and preclude the need for listing.

The message was powerful – not just because it was endorsed by four of our nation’s top thinkers on conservation, but because it was optimistic.

“We have seen what’s possible when we all pull our oars in the same direction,” they wrote.

This is a fundamental turning of the tides in the conversation around sage grouse. Previously, the dialogue has been pointed, with industry interests, agriculture interests and wildlife interests caught in crosshairs. But the discourse has changed, and it’s because the situation on the ground has changed. Read More »

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California governor reappoints EDF working lands director to state food and agriculture board

Eric Holst

Eric Holst, director of EDF’s working lands program

Eric Holst, senior director of Environmental Defense Fund’s working lands program, has been reappointed to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture by Governor Jerry Brown.

Holst has served on the board – a fifteen-member state board appointed by the governor to represent a range of agricultural commodities, geographic regions and academic systems – since 2012. The board encourages public participation and input in all matters concerning agriculture and food policy within the state, from hunger and malnutrition to climate change and environmental markets. But the dominant focus over the last year has been drought and how to mitigate impacts on California agriculture.

A natural choice

Holst has been a leader in developing innovative partnerships with farmers, ranchers and foresters to improve environmental and economic performance on working lands for more than a decade, both in California and elsewhere across the country. Read More »

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Collaborative conservation: A ripe example from America’s farms

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has been working with farmers and ranchers for more than a decade to transform business as usual by providing incentives for conservation. As EDF’s 2014 strategic plan notes, “we’ve seen some encouraging things.”

conservation

EDF staff join farmers and other conservation collaborators in the field to track outcomes for habitats and species.

With proven success in the field, we are now looking to take these programs to scale to boost food production while maintaining profitable farms, a safe environment and healthy people. Read More »

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USDA: Helping ranchers is crucial to helping sage-grouse

Central Oregon rancher restores sage-grouse habitat with NRCS assistance. Source: nrcs.usda.gov

Central Oregon rancher restores sage-grouse habitat with NRCS assistance. Source: nrcs.usda.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) just announced new funding to support sage-grouse habitat conservation on working lands.

This is very promising, considering the last round of sage-grouse funding engaged more than 1,000 ranchers to conserve 4.4 million acres of bird habitat – an area twice the size of Yellowstone National Park.

That last round of funding – made available in 2010 through the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Sage Grouse Initiative – invested $296.5 million to restore and conserve sage-grouse habitat. Today, NRCS pledged to extend these efforts by $200 million over another for years.

Doubling down on a good investment
Read More »

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No time to wait: sage grouse delay gives urgency to conservation

The greater sage-grouse

The greater sage-grouse

You may have seen a strange looking bird causing quite a stir in the news recently. That’s because there’s a lot at stake with the greater sage-grouse, especially now that a rider in the federal spending bill prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the species under the Endangered Species Act in 2015 (a decision was originally expected in September). But this delay isn’t stopping ranchers, conservationists and other key stakeholder from moving full speed ahead to find a solution.

You might not get this sense from the political dialog and the media, but out on the ground, there is a real spirit of cooperation when it comes to the greater sage-grouse. That’s because everyone realizes that – rider or no rider, listing or no listing – this bird needs help.

Read More »

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