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Creating opportunities for sustainable sage-grouse conservation

Sage-Grouse (Steve Fairbairn / USFWS)

The Sage-Grouse Conservation Partnership (SageCon) was convened by Governor Kitzhaber’s office, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to address USFWS’s upcoming listing decision in 2015, and to support community sustainability in central and eastern Oregon. By addressing key threats to sagebrush habitat, SageCon is working collaboratively with ranching and farming communities as well as emerging industries such as mining and renewable energy to ensure species protection for sage-grouse protection. The goal for the collaborative effort is to develop an “all lands, all threats” plan for sage-grouse conservation in Oregon.The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) completed a significant planning effort with diverse stakeholder involvement resulted in the 2011 Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Assessment and Strategy for Oregon. This established the foundation for long-term conservation of sage-grouse in the state. The plan’s primary goal is to maintain large expanses of intact sagebrush habitat for the benefit of sage-grouse and other sagebrush associated species.

The SageCon Partnership builds on the 2011 ODFW Conservation Strategy for Greater Sage-Grouse (ODFW Plan) by engaging additional stakeholders to coordinate and accelerate implementation of strategic conservation actions and strengthen regulatory mechanisms across land ownerships to alleviate threats to sage-grouse while ensuring sustainable rural economies. SageCon compliments existing sage-grouse conservation efforts, such as the ODFW-led Local Implementation Teams and State Sage-grouse Conservation Planning Team, by providing a broader forum for coordination and improved integration of strategies across agencies and jurisdictions. SageCon also utilizes new rangewide information, including the USFWS’ Conservation Objectives Team (COT) Report (USFWS 2013), to ensure all necessary actions are being taken to reduce threats in the state and better inform the 2015 listing decision.

The SageCon Partnerhip’s overarching goal is to demonstrate how Oregon is implementing the policies and conservation actions needed to adequately reduce threats to sage-grouse and Oregon’s sagebrush ecosystem.

The primary product of the SageCon Partnership will be an amendment to the Oregon Sage-grouse Plan for Oregon to: (i) update the status of the species and its habitat conditions, (ii) identify existing conservation measures that have been implemented in Oregon since 2010 to reduce threats to the species, and (iii) formulate new regulatory and voluntary programs the state of Oregon, local governments, and public and private land managers to create more predictability and certainty in the permitting process and to ensure that mitigation dollars are invested in the highest value sage-grouse habitat for the species.

This product will frame new state and local policies to reduce threats; commit state and local resources to sage-grouse recovery; form partnership agreements to streamline implementation; and help to design assessment, predictive modeling, and adaptive management data and tools needed to target habitat protection, restoration, and maintenance investments to get the highest return on investment. Ultimately, the desired outcome is to achieve stable-to-increasing sage-grouse populations and sustainable rural economies.

Organization and Working Group Tasks

SageCon is composed of a core planning and advisory group (Core Team), multiple stakeholder work groups, and multiple technical teams. The Core Team provides direction in terms of key needs for policy, meeting organization and agendas, work planning, and funding. The Habitat Fragmentation Work Group focuses on anthropogenic disturbances contributing to habitat fragmentation. The Fire and Invasive Work Group focuses on natural disturbances contributing to habitat degradation and fragmentation. The Mitigation Work Group focuses on data and information needed to formulate a feasible mitigation policy and plan. The Technical Teams provides topical expertise, data, and analyses needed to support development of the amendment. Additional ad hoc work groups form and dissolve as necessary to meet specific work objectives.

Authored by Ruth Vondracek (2014)