July 2015: Utah Community-Based Conservation Program Receives Western Extension Directors’ Association Award of Excellence

Program Promotes Sagebrush Conservation and Habitat Protection for Sage Grouse

July 17, 2015

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Washington, D.C. – Dr. Terry Messmer, professor in the Department of Wildland Resources with Utah State University, received the Western Extension Directors’ Association (WEDA) Award of Excellence on behalf of Utah’s Community-Based Conservation Program (CBCP). Utah’s CBCP coordinates communication and sage grouse conservation efforts between Utah State University Extension, resource management working groups, private partners, and public partners. The award was presented at the Western Region Joint Summer meeting hosted by Colorado State University in Breckenridge, Colo. last week.

“I’m honored to receive this Award of Excellence on behalf of my CBCP colleagues,” said Dr. Messmer. “We will continue to engage local landowners, ranchers, agricultural producers, state and federal agencies and environmental organizations in partnerships that help protect sage grouse and the working landscapes that are the very essence of the Western way of life. The sage grouse plays an important role in sagebrush ecosystems in Utah and the western region, and our conservation efforts set a precedent for the protection of other sagebrush animals.”

Sagebrush habitats stretch across most of the Western United States, and this “sagebrush sea” has supported humans and nearly 350 other species of wildlife for more than 10,000 years.

Sagebrush grows at elevations between 3,000 and 5,000 feet and has a long life expectancy. Although sagebrush can withstand drought conditions, invasive species, agricultural conversion, and fire severely deplete the vegetation.

Sage grouse are the largest native grouse species in North America. This long-lived, ground-nesting bird is found in 11 Western states where it is dependent on sagebrush habitat for survival. Current threats to sage grouse populations and habitat include climate change, overgrazing, and habitat fragmentation.

“Sagebrush is vital to wildlife in Utah as it provides shelter for many species, including the sage grouse, and can be used as forage by other wildlife, like elk, deer and domestic livestock. In fact, during the winter, sagebrush is often the only food source available to the sage grouse. It’s imperative that we continue to work together to preserve this precious ecosystem and keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list,” said Dr. Messmer.

Utah’s CBCP made significant contributions to the sage grouse conservation and management plan for the state of Utah, and other western states have similar plans. To date, Utah’s CBCP has 11 working groups across the state and over 20 local, state, and federal partners. To learn more about Utah’s CBCP, visit http://www.utahcbcp.org/

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