USDA invests $700,000 in Montana
In a new venture to improve and expand wildlife habitat within Montana, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to invest $700,000 in the state. The money will fund the purchase of conservation leases on privately-owned and operated ranch lands in cooperation with the Sage-Grouse Initiative Program (SGI). This means more public access for recreational opportunities on private land.
"This generous grant will benefit landowners, wildlife, and recreationists in areas that provide high quality sage-grouse habitat,” says Rick Northrup, wildlife habitat bureau chief for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP).
The SGI was launched by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 2010 as a collective partnership with ranchers, agencies, universities, nonprofit organizations and other businesses to achieve wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching. With the USDA’s $700,000 grant, MFWP officials will be able to recruit more ranchers and private land owners to the effort, providing lease payments as incentive to manage the land for 30 years consistent with SGI terms, according to The Prairie Star.
MFWP hopes to enroll at least 45,000 more acres. Increasing the number of ranchers participating in the SGI effort means more opportunities for hunting or wildlife viewing for the public. The project is funded by the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentives Program (VPA-HIP) and administered by the NRCS.
Additionally, a $500,000 VPA-HIP grant to Montana will be matched with state Upland Bird Enhancement Program funds to purchase Opens Fields for Game Bird Hunters leases, which provides interested game bird hunters permission for walk-in hunting during the fall hunting season, according to the Outdoor Wire.