The Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program awarded $4.6 million to fund seven proposed sage grouse projects on Nov. 30, with three of the seven projects receiving fully requested funding amounts, and four others receiving partial funding. The Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team voted unanimously to fully fund projects submitted by The Nature Conservancy in Montana in southwestern and central Montana, and to partially fund four projects (two from TNC and two from The Montana Land Reliance) in central, south central, and southwestern Montana.
An article in the Billings Gazette by outdoor writer Brett French does a good job explaining the value of the overall program and the value of the seven projects submitted for consideration. Together, the seven proposed projects would conserve close to 25,000 acres of important sagebrush habitat in perpetuity, through voluntary, incentive-based conservation easements.
Jim Berkey and Brian Martin from TNC, and Brad Hansen from MLR, together with landowners connected to the seven projects, made presentations to MSGOT. Five of the projects partner with the NRCS ALE Program to leverage MSGOT funding. There was not sufficient funding in the MSGOT program to fully fund all seven, and some lingering questions remain about exactly what the MSGOT funding motions were and exactly what portion of project stewardship funds were awarded for the projects. MALT members are working with the sage grouse program to obtain exact funding figures and a path forward for all seven projects.