(October-December 2019)
(October-December 2019)
Sage Grouse Conservation Partnership
October-December 2019 News and Updates (Sent January 10, 2020)

SageCon Technical Resources on the Web
Stay connected and find resources through the SageCon Partnership website. On the site, find the SageCon Tools Navigator, which provides a one-stop-shop for SageCon tools and technical resources such as: The SageCon Landscape Planning Tool allows you to view, download and query local spatial data, The Oregon Sage-Grouse Development Siting Tool provides site-specific information for developers about sage-grouse mitigation and Guidance for using rangeland vegetation maps in habitat assessment and management planning. 
Over the next year, the partnership will create an online SageCon Dashboard to highlight implementation and monitoring information related to cross-ownership conservation actions across Oregon; population, habitat condition and threat status; development and economy-related work; as well as partnership success stories. In the meantime, check out the information compiled for the 2019 SageCon Summit.
Federal Updates
Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act” Legislation (November 07, 2019) introduced by Wyden and Merkley (Official Press Release) to boost economic development, local community and conservation outcomes in Malheur County by supporting science-based adaptive management of federal lands to make efficient ranching a continued conservation tool and ensure real-time management responses to threats on the ecological integrity of the lands, designating over 1 million acres of wilderness and 14.7 miles of the Owyhee River as Wild and Scenic, establishing loop roads to encourage tourism and local tourist-related amenities, improve state parks and firefighting efforts, among other economic efforts & striving to protect and recognize the ancient important cultural base of the native peoples who have occupied this land for millennia.  Further Materials (including section by section analysis)
The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act Passed (December 20, 2020) H.R. 1865 includes funding for the following Department of the Interior priorities:Wildland Fire Management: $5.55 billion for Wildland Fire Management, including $2.25 billion in cap-adjusted fire suppression funding, Sage-grouse: $72 million for sage-grouse conservation, including provisions that prevent a listing of the greater sage-grouse and the Columbia basin distinct population segment as an endangered species, Rural water projects: $117 million for rural water projects, Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for two fiscal years & Wild Horse and Burro Management: $101.6 million for the Wild Horse and Burro Management program, a $21.0 million increase above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level.

BLM Updates 
New OR/WA State-Office Acting Director is Jose Linares. Jose brings 38 years of experience in natural resource management and has served in a variety of leadership positions with the BLM and U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest and Washington DC. 

A preliminary injunction set by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill out of Boise has enjoined the BLM from implementing the 2019 BLM Sage-Grouse Plan Amendments for Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada/ Northeastern California, and Oregon, until such time as the Court can adjudicate the legal claims on the merits. The court decision states that BLM failed to apply NEPA, address best available science, develop reasonable alternatives to analyze cumulate effects on sage grouse species and habitat. As a result, BLM is reverting back to the 2015 Greater-Sage Grouse Resource Management Plan Amendments for now. 

BLM has released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Tri-State Fuel Breaks Project to reduce flammable vegetation along roadways. The project area consists of about 3.6 million acres of land within Malheur County, Oregon, and Owyhee County, Idaho. The proposed fuel breaks are part of a larger national wildfire reduction strategy guided by the president’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13855 – Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and Other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk, as well as Secretarial Order (S.O.) 3372 – Reducing Wildfire Risks on Department of the Interior Land through Active Management. The two orders direct the BLM and other Interior and Department of Agriculture agencies to implement policies to improve forest and rangeland management practices by reducing hazardous fuel loads, mitigating fire risk and ensuring the safety and stability of local communities through active management on forests and rangelands. Official Press Release
NRCS has received an updated budget allocation for Sage Grouse Initiative EQUIP funding.  Approximately $4 million is designated for Oregon. 
USFWS Partners with SWCD’s and State of Oregon to Further CCAA Coverage and Monitoring
One of the key successes underpinning sagebrush restoration in Oregon has been the public-private partnerships forged to share the costs and benefits of sage-grouse conservation. 30-year Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA) for greater sage grouse have been developed with Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) working with private landowners in Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Harney, Lake, Malheur and Union Counties. Paul Henson, USFWS reflects that  “from the start back in 2014, the Service has been working in partnership with the SWCDs and Oregon Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) on building and implementing these 30 year agreements. They are a very important part of a shared strategy to keep ranchlands working, while delivering meaningful conservation for Greater sage-grouse throughout southeastern Oregon. We will continue to pursue funding opportunities, and work with the SWCDs to improve the agreements moving forward.” 

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) has been a foundational partner in this work. OWEB will be advancing $100K in USFWS funds to support short-term CCAA monitoring capacity at relevant partner SWCDs and is considering an additional grant for further capacity support. Jan Lee, OACD’s Executive Director affirms the value of partnering across public and private entities in Oregon’s sagebrush landscapes “funding the 30-year monitoring of the CCAA plans is critical for program success and we appreciate the recent USFWS financial commitment. OWEB is reviewing an additional grant application for monitoring and has financially contributed to the sage grouse effort for several years.  The Oregon Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) continues to support our member districts protecting sage grouse habitat and will work with the districts and our partner agencies in seeking the necessary long term funding required for monitoring.”
State Updates
Mitigation MOA
The Mitigation Memorandum of Agreement has been signed between ODFW and BLM to affirm the landscape-level approach to ensuring mitigation of impacts from development projects maintains, preserves and improves sage-grouse habitat across Oregon: 

Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response
The Governor’s Wildfire Council--created by EO 19-01 in January 2019--has in turn created an opportunity to bring rangeland health issues to the fold of a wildfire context that is generally forest focused. The Council was served by three committees (Mitigation, Suppression and Adaptation / Community Response). In November, the Council issued its final report, and more recent consensus recommendations adopted by the Wildfire Mitigation Committee build on that report. Among the recommendations are rangeland invasive annual grass-focused policy and investment items, including a new $1 million grant fund administered through OWEB and focused on local capacity, strategic approaches, technology and on-the-ground implementation to reduce wildfire risk through improvements in treatment and restoration success (see p.22 of the Committee report link below). This conversation now moves into the state legislative arena. Link to the recent Mitigation Committee recommendations: 

OWEB Focused Investment Partnership 
 In addition to its recent support in advancing USFWS funds and potentially additional state dollars for short-term CCAA monitoring capacity (see above Federal Updates / USFWS), OWEB has provided strong support for sagebrush ecosystem, sage-grouse habitat, and local working land health through its Focused Investment Partnership (FIP) program. FIP funding has also supported other habitat and wildlife species, and OWEB is furthering its commitment to the FIP program. 

A solicitation for opportunities related to 2021-2023 FIP funding kicks off January 2020, when application materials will be made available. Check out the Oregon Model to Protect Sage Grouse tracking report for more information on how a first cohort, existing FIP has accelerated outcomes for landscape-level sagebrush habitat. For a closer look at the priorities around the Sagebrush/Sage-Steppe Habitat supporting landscape scale restoration; check out OWEB’s FIP priority memo

2020 Conservation Assessment--and related Data Call
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) is conducting a Conservation Assessment for greater sage-grouse in 2020. This is a state-led effort (related to but not the equivalent of a USFWS review under the Endangered Species Act). To assist in this assessment, the Conservation Efforts Database (CED)  is collecting information on conservation and restoration actions being implemented in the sagebrush ecosystem since 2015. The CED includes plans, agreements and actions implemented on both public and private land, and protects personally identifiable information for actions on private lands by reporting across broad spatial units. Oregon agencies are participating in this effort, which will also be used to fulfill the some of the monitoring actions in the Oregon Sage-Grouse Action Plan. Information on conservation efforts in Oregon should be entered into the CED by February 14, 2020. Please contact Megan Creutzburg (megan.creutzburg@oregonstate.edu) with any questions about the Oregon data call, and refer to help documents on the CED website linked above for more information.
Save the Dates 

*January 21 and February 18, 2020 SageCon Staff Implementation Team
*April 1, 2020 is the first time (no fooling) you can respond online to the 2020 Census.The Census provides the basis for reapportioning congressional seats and distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to support states, counties and communities’ vital programs.
*April 30th and May 1st, 2020 RFPA Summit Burns Oregon (email Marvin Vetter to RSVP and weigh-in on agenda topics: Marvin.J.VETTER@oregon.gov
*June 22-25, 2020 WAFWA 32nd Sage and Columbian Sharp-taile Grouse Workshop Bend Oregon

Missed a meeting? Catch up on what happened in 2019; link to review all SageCon Meeting Materials
Recent Research Publications, Stories and Reports
Warner Creek Correctional Facility
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