CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Days after the US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed that Governor Mead’s Executive Order will protect sage-grouse habitat the USDA announced it is sending $10.4 million to Wyoming for conserving critical sage-grouse habitat on private land. This is on top of $17 million the state received from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) program earlier this year.
Mead’s executive order, which was signed June 2 of this year replaces a similar order signed by former Governor Freudenthal. The new plan changes very little of Freudenthal’s original Grouse management plan, but does clarify further the responsibilities that individual state agencies have in it’s implementation. The new plan also provides an expiration date of 2015 to the management plan, and also requires scientific studies to be conducted on the plan’s effectiveness.
Mead’s order also allows for the option of energy development in the roughly 5.5 million acres of land in the protection area, on the condition that scientific studies show that the activities will not diminish grouse population.
Governor Matt Mead said, “I am pleased that the federal government is backing up its words of support for our sage-grouse plan. Our plan is an effort to keep sage-grouse off the endangered species list. Because private property owners often bear the costs of species protection it is good to see funds provided to offset some of the costs associated with protecting a species.”
The chair of the Sage-Grouse Implementation Team, Bob Budd, said this is a voluntary program and that it targets the right areas. “The funding specifically would go to deal with fragmentation,” Budd said. “The US Fish and Wildlife Service identified fragmentation as the number-one threat to sage-grouse habitat in the west.”