Douglas County is known for its diverse landscape, friendly faces, and plentiful natural resources. For generations, families have forged a life here, with farming and ranching shaping the backbone of this community. NRCS created the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), a voluntary, incentives based program, specifically designed for communities like those found in Douglas County. Funding for SGI comes from Farm Bill Conservation Programs to sustain working rangelands and wildlife resources across the landscape.
Privately owned rangelands constitute some of the most productive and intact habitats available not just for greater sage-grouse, but also the 350 sagebrush steppe species that require these ecosystems for survival. Therefore, private landowners are among the most valued stewards of the land. To demonstrate the importance of those landscapes and the ranching tradition, NRCS and our partners launched SGI 2.0 in 2016, which NRCS alone committed $211 million dollars to for life of the new Farm Bill.
With various partners, NRCS identified core areas surrounding known greater sage-grouse leks, which will be the focus of SGI in Douglas County for the next several years. NRCS will allocate approximately 75% of funding to enroll acres within this core area. They will use the remaining 25% to enroll acres in adjacent areas with suitable habitat.
When producers enroll in SGI, they realize benefits such as improved functionality of the operation; financial security to prevent the need to subdivide; and once enrolled, they receive 30 years of assurance to continue their approved practices, whether the greater sage-grouse become listed or not. Producers can select from several practices to incorporate into their conservation plan. Developing a prescribed grazing plan; installing cross fences, pipelines, and watering facilities; developing springs; and establishing range plantings are a few common practices producers choose. While SGI traditionally partners with ranchers, SGI Crop is now available to farmers who wish to plant cropland back to permanent cover to improve soil health and/or remove unwanted fences.
For more information about SGI or SGI Crop, call or visit Lisa Dowling or Julie Unfried at the USDA Waterville Service Center (509) 745-8561. Check out the website here.