Private landowners in Alabama and elsewhere in the Southeast are playing a crucial role in restoring habitat for gopher tortoises.
Longleaf pine forests once dominated the Southeast. But over the past two centuries, many of these forests have disappeared along with the wildlife that called them home. Recent efforts to enhance longleaf forests on private lands are helping the ecosystem rebound as well as wildlife like the gopher tortoise.
The gopher tortoise is a keystone species of the longleaf forest, known for their deep burrows that provide vital habitat and shelter for not only itself but many other species. The gopher tortoise is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the western part of the longleaf range, including parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Read more »
Local boy scout troop members and their families pose with bundles of shrubs and planting bars at the edge of a wetland where they are planting shrubs for New England cottontail habitat. Photo by Phillip Brown, Audubon.
A New Hampshire community came together to help restore habitat for the New England cottontail, a native rabbit of the region. For this rabbit, habitat restoration is pretty simple, planting the shrubs that are the cornerstones of its ideal habitat.
Nearly 40 volunteers gathered in April to plant more than 5,000 shrubs at Smith Sisters Wildlife Sanctuary, a 115-acre sanctuary managed by Audubon. Volunteers planted 10 different shrub species, including elderberry, dogwoods, Virginia rose, American hazelnut, fragrant sumac, eastern red-cedar, nannyberry and arrowwood viburnum. Read more »
The New England cottontail is the region’s only native rabbit. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wildlife and working lands go hand in hand. Today, thanks to the hard work of private landowners and land managers, the New England cottontail will not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Widespread habitat loss since the 1960s impacted New England cottontail numbers. But people like Rick Ambrose have restored habitat on private lands, putting the cottontail on the road to recovery. I had a chance to visit Rick’s place today in New Hampshire, seeing how he worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to voluntarily restore the young shrubby forests the rabbit needs. Read more »
NRCS works with private landowners to develop conservation plans that benefit the environment and farm productivity.
For 80 years, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has worked with agricultural producers to make conservation improvements to their farms, ranches and forests. These improvements help clean and conserve water, boost soil quality and restore habitat, and also make their agricultural operations more resilient.
Born amid the Dust Bowl, when persistent drought and dust storms swept through the nation, NRCS worked with stewardship-minded producers to heal the land. That work continues today, as producers voluntarily step forward to conserve natural resources, having tremendous positive impacts across the country. Read more »
Brewer’s sparrow and green-tailed towhee numbers climbed significantly where sagebrush habitat was restored. Gray flycatcher, a songbird that prefers a mix of conifers and sagebrush, saw declines when sagebrush habitat was restored. (Click to enlarge)
The Natural Resources Conservation Service works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for sage grouse with funding through the Sage Grouse Initiative. Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers the 11 Western state range of the bird. About 40 percent of the sage grouse dwell on private lands. David Naugle is a wildlife professor at the University of Montana and the science advisor for SGI, an NRCS-led partnership. —Tim Griffiths, NRCS
By David Naugle, Science Advisor, Sage Grouse Initiative
Restoring sagebrush ecosystems not only benefits ranching and sage grouse but other wildlife, too. New data show that populations of Brewer’s sparrow and green-tailed towhee, two sagebrush-dependent songbirds, climbed significantly in places where invading conifer trees were removed.
Three years after removing trees, Brewer’s sparrow numbers increased by 55 percent and green-tailed towhee numbers by 81 percent relative to areas not restored, according to a new report released by the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI). These two songbirds, both identified as species of conservation concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), serve as early indicators of the effectiveness of restoration work. Read more »
USDA today unveiled Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, its roadmap to guide voluntary conservation efforts on private grazing lands in the West. Photo courtesy of Ken Miracle.
Today, USDA released its new long-term investment strategy for sage grouse conservation—Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 (SGI 2.0). USDA’s planned investments will complement the great conservation work already happening throughout the West and build on the work of the Sage Grouse Initiative, a partnership between USDA, ranchers and conservation groups that began in 2010. SGI 2.0 provides our partners a roadmap to fill unmet needs by rallying around a cohesive, partnership-focused conservation strategy that is good for cattle ranches, good for the bird, good for rural economies and good for sustaining the Western way of life.
The SGI 2.0 investment strategy is intended to be a living document, shaped by the best available science and the priorities of our partners. SGI 2.0 and other strategic partnership initiatives like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program underscore the growing demand for a new conservation philosophy of putting local partners in the driver’s seat and allowing them to set priorities and develop strategies that make sense for their operations and communities while still meeting conservation goals. Read more »