FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 20, 2015
Dave Parker, Communications Director, Governor’s Office, 444-9844
Mike Wessler, Deputy Communications Director, Governor’s Office, 444-9725
HELENA – Governor Steve Bullock today signed a cooperative Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana Incorporated (SWCDMI) and the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). This MOU encourages SWCDMI, NRCS, and the State of Montana to work together in the preservation of sage grouse habitat on working rangelands in Montana. The MOU invites the organizations to implement mutually agreed upon priorities, to share expertise, and to streamline the protection and enhancement of sage grouse habitat. Governor Bullock is confident that bringing together these interested parties will align local, state, and federal resources and coordinate efforts to help Montana ranchers voluntarily protect sage grouse while maintaining profitable and resilient grazing lands.
“Preservation of the Greater Sage Grouse is a priority for my administration,” said Bullock. “Our economy, and our Montana way of life depends on all of us working together to ensure a bright future for the grouse and a continued thriving economy.”
Unlike other Western states, 70 percent of sage grouse habitat in Montana is on non-federally owned lands. The US Fish and Wildlife Service cites loss and fragmentation of habitat for the bird’s decline during the past 50 years. However, unlike many states and Canadian provinces, Montana still has large blocks of intact habitat that support sustainable sage grouse populations. Through the signing of this MOU, Governor Bullock has signaled that innovative partnerships with private landowners on working rangelands are essential to sage grouse conservation. Through cooperation with SWCDMI and NRSC, and with a focus on Montana’s private working lands, Governor Bullock is confident that conservation efforts will be bolstered considerably.
In September of 2014, he issued Executive Order no. 10-2014 creating the Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team and the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program. During the 2015 Legislature, Governor Bullock led a bi-partisan coalition of state legislators and diverse stakeholders and passed the Montana Greater Sage Grouse Stewardship Act (Senate Bill 261) that established the Sage Grouse Stewardship Account. The Governor and his staff are committed to effectively implementing the act and administrating state funding for the sage grouse conservation program. The signing of this MOU is the next significant step in Governor Bullock’s plan to preserve Montana’s sage grouse while continuing to foster the growth of ranchers and private rangelands.
A signing ceremony was held on Monday, July 20th, 2015 in the Governor’s Reception Room. Governor Bullock was joined by Chief Weller of the NRCS, Lisa Coverdale, the NRCS Montana state conservationist, and President Jeff Wivholm of the SWCDMI.