Lincoln, Neb. – April 13, 2009 – The Nebraska Chapter of the North American Grouse Partnership (NAGP) was awarded a $68,000 grant by the Nebraska Environmental Trust last week to help landowners restore and manage grassland habitat to benefit greater prairie chickens in southwest Nebraska’s Sandsage Prairie.
Steve Riley, NAGP national board member, president of the Nebraska NAGP chapter, and wildlife biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, is enthusiastic about the grant award. “This is certainly a shot in the arm for our efforts to manage and restore important habitat for greater prairie chickens in the Sandsage Prairie,” Riley said. “The beauty of this grant will be the matching dollars it can bring from other local, state, and federal habitat efforts.”
The NET grant could result in thousands of acres of habitat improvements in the Sandsage Prairie once matched with federal Farm Bill, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, State of Nebraska, or local Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever chapter conservation program funds. Habitat projects funded through the grant may include tree removal, prescribed burning, nesting cover enhancements, and implementation of planned grazing management.
“Greater prairie chickens need large expanses of open grassland,” explained Riley. “Unfortunately, grasslands are the fastest disappearing ecosystem on the planet. This grant will enable vital habitat restoration projects and compensate our farmer and rancher partners for their conservation efforts on behalf of a bird that is very important to Nebraskans.”
The Sandsage Prairie is home to thousands of greater prairie chickens and is critical both to those birds and also lesser prairie chickens. The Sandsage also offers prime habitat for pheasants, quail, mule deer, and long-billed curlew. This project is part of the greater effort by NAGP and its partners to implement A Grassland Conservation Plan for Prairie Grouse.
“The on-the-ground habitat work facilitated by this grant will help sustain America’s cherished prairie grouse species,” said Tom Franklin, senior vice president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, “and it should augment sportsmen’s efforts to strengthen federal policy aimed at conserving our remaining prairie grasslands.”
Prairie Grouse Partners Add Two Groups to Grassland Effort
Last month, the NAGP joined with Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the Mule Deer Foundation to launch the Prairie Grouse Partners, a new conservation partnership with an aggressive goal of restoring 20 percent of North America’s native grasslands. This effort would result in 60 million acres of improved habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including three species of prairie grouse.
Representatives of the organizations announced the alliance on March 17 at the 74th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference and invited other like-minded conservation groups to join the cause. Two influential organizations, American Bird Conservancy and Ecosystem Management Research Institute, immediately responded.
American Bird Conservancy’s mission is to conserve native wild birds throughout the Americas. The organization acts to safeguard the rarest bird species, restore habitats, and reduce threats while building capacity in the conservation movement. Working closely with the Joint Ventures and North American Bird Conservation Initiative, American Bird Conservancy believes that working in partnership with like-minded organizations is essential for advancing bird conservation.
“American Bird Conservancy is pleased to join with the Prairie Grouse Partners,” said David Pashley, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President of Conservation Programs. “The Greater Prairie-Chicken is on the U.S. watch list of birds of highest conservation concern, and grasslands were identified in the recent U.S. State of the Birds report as one of the most imperiled habitats. Action is urgently needed now.”
The Ecosystem Management Research Institute (EMRI) was founded in 2000 with a mission of providing innovative science and technical assistance to ecosystem management, biodiversity conservation, and landscape planning efforts.
“EMRI is very pleased to join the Prairie Grouse Partners,” said Jon Haufler, EMRI executive director. “EMRI has been actively working to maintain and restore native ecosystems, and the creation of this partnership is an outstanding opportunity for many organizations to cooperate to advance this critical conservation need.”
The Prairie Grouse Partners invite other conservation organizations to participate in this unprecedented effort on behalf of grasslands and prairie grouse. To learn more about joining the PGP, please contact NAGP Executive Director Ralph Rogers at (406)462-5487.