Community Agriculture Alliance: Linking healthy habitats, productive working lands | SteamboatToday.com
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Community Agriculture Alliance: Linking healthy habitats, productive working lands

Productive working lands reflect healthy wildlife habitats and go hand in hand with a sustainable agricultural operation. They benefit your bottom line and help ensure your working lands are productive into the future, enabling you to pass on your legacy.

Managing for healthy wildlife habitats maintains and improves soil health and the quantity and quality of water resources — both above and below ground. Thriving habitats include diverse native plant communities that provide high-quality forage for grazing and food and shelter for wildlife. An additional benefit is better hunting and fishing opportunities. 

Working Lands for Wildlife encompasses several Natural Resource Conservation Service programs that focus on conservation of target species. Conservation efforts that maintain or restore healthy landscapes for these target species address the needs of many species at the same time. For example, conservation efforts for sage-grouse benefit 350 other species of plants and animals living in sagebrush habitat.

Two Working Lands for Wildlife programs for species that occur in Routt County are the Sage-Grouse Initiative and the Cutthroat Trout Project. The following are just three Natural Resource Conservation Service practices to consider for greater sage-grouse:

  • In areas historically without conifers, removing them makes more water available to the landscape and opens up the canopy so grasses and forbs can reestablish.
  • Herbaceous weed control keeps pest plants from outcompeting native vegetation.
  • Cross-fencing assists with rotational grazing using a prescribed grazing plan, allowing for a healthier, more diverse plant community.

Practices to consider for cutthroat trout:

  • Streambank stabilization and streamside plantings reduce sediment in the water from erosion.
  • Plantings also shade the water, cooling it, and overhanging vegetation provides cover for fish and wildlife.
  • Fencing helps protect the riparian corridor.
  • These are just a few Conservation Service practices that can have far-reaching effects in sagebrush rangeland and riparian habitats.

Another benefit of the Sage-Grouse Initiative is regulatory predictability. As long as you maintain your conservation plan that you developed voluntarily in collaboration with Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guarantees that even if the greater sage-grouse is listed as a federal threatened or endangered species in the future that you will be in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

This assurance provides producers with the peace of mind that regardless of the listing status of a species, they can meet wildlife conservation needs while simultaneously keeping their working lands working.

The Conservation Service can help you develop a site-specific conservation plan that is designed to meet multiple goals and address one or more plant, animal, soil, water, air or energy resource concerns. Each plan is tailored to the condition and potential of your working lands. Farm Bill funding is available through the Sage-Grouse Initiative and Cutthroat Trout Project.

For more information contact Clinton Whitten with Natural Resource Conservation Service at 970-439-3246 or clinton.whitten@usda.gov.

Jen Perkins is with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies/Natural Resources Conservation Service Partner.


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