Grouse conservation efforts receive funding

Activities to support habitat for greater sage grouse received a $1.27 million funding boost March 17 from the federal environment and climate change department.

The money will fund initiatives through the Species At Risk Partnership on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL), which is part of the national conservation plan.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association announced the funding, saying it will allow the CCA “to carry on conservation activities with beef producers to protect greater sage grouse critical habitat in the grassland natural region of southeast Alberta.”

CCA’s partners on the project include Multisar, Cows and Fish, Alberta Beef Producers and the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

Activities over the next two years will involve direct work with landowners to undertake habitat assessment and then develop habitat management strategies to benefit critical grouse habitat.

A CCA news release also indicated plans to explore term conservation easements with willing landowners in areas where sage grouse live.

“These term agreements would be in place for a set period of time. Many producers have indicated they prefer term agreements to perpetual agreements primarily for ranch family succession reasons,” the CCA said.

The greater sage grouse is listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. Southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan are at the northern end of the species’ range. As of 2016, its numbers were estimated at 340 individual birds. Greater sage grouse are dependent on the silver sagebrush that grows in mixed grassland regions of Canada and the United States.

A previous SARPAL project that ran from 2015-20 involved 24 ranches and 189,000 acres in Alberta. The CCA said 45 habitat enhancement strategies resulted from those efforts.

They included producer-driven “ranch management plans, education, habitat conservation strategies and habitat improvements ranging from riparian protection, off-site watering, portable electric fencing, and implementation of beneficial management practices.”

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