Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program is soliciting public comment on proposed uses of the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Stewardship Fund to benefit sage grouse and conserve important sage grouse habitats. MSGOT requests public comment on draft environmental assessments for six proposals.
Nature Conservancy submitted an application to enter into a permanent conservation easement with the Willow Basin Ranch to conserve 3,997 acres of sage grouse core habitat in Beaverhead County near Dell.
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 2,011 acres near Grass Range in Fergus and Petroleum counties, respectively. Both projects would conserve habitat in core areas.
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.
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 combination of restoration work (conifer removal and reseeding cropland to rangeland) and a 25-year term lease on about 5,625 acres of the Gran Prairie Ranch. Both projects are located west of Winnett and would conserve core habitat for the duration of the leases.
“Habitat conservation is a key component of Montana’s conservation strategy, especially on private lands where most of Montana’s sage grouse live,” said Carolyn Sime, Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program Manager. “The purpose of these grants is to maintain, enhance, and restore sage grouse habitats, while at the same time creating mitigation sites that can be used to offset impacts of development elsewhere.”
The 2015 Montana Legislature created the grant opportunity when it passed the Greater Sage Grouse Stewardship Act. During the first Stewardship Fund grant cycle in 2016-2017, about $2.8 million of Stewardship Fund dollars were leveraged with $6.6 million of federal and private funds to conserve 43,148 acres of sage grouse habitat. Approximately $3.2 million is available for the current 2019 grant cycle.
A copy of each draft environmental assessment, along with maps and more information about the proposed project and Habitat Quantification Tool results, is available online at https://sagegrouse.mt.gov/Grants.
Written public comments may be submitted through postal mail or hand delivered to the Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, 1539 Eleventh Avenue, PO Box 201601, Helena, MT 59620. Postal mail comments must be postmarked and mailed on or before July 29, 2019.
Comments may also be submitted electronically through the public web application tool at https://sagegrouse.mt.gov/Team. Look for the comment box and link in the lower right side of your screen. Electronic comments and attached documents must be received by 11:59 p.m. on July 29, 2019.
Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program will review public comments received on the draft environmental assessments. Final assessments will be completed and available for public review later this summer. MSGOT is expected to select grant recipients during a public meeting in September.
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. The future of sage grouse in Montana will depend on our collective efforts.