July 1, 2008

Conservation Program Changes Would Help Wyoming Ranchers Improve Wildlife Habitat, Keep Species Off Endangered List


Contact: Sharyn Stein, Environmental Defense Fund, +1-202-572- 3396, or [email protected]

New Study Suggests Improvements to Help USDA Programs Work Better

BOULDER, Colo., July 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A dozen species of native Wyoming birds might be kept off the endangered species list with some improvements to federal conservation programs that also would continue to help the states ranching economy. Thats the conclusion of a new study by a leading national conservation organization.

The report by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) analyzes federal conservation programs in the Equality State and is titled Are Wyoming Range Practices Working at Cross-purposes with Wildlife Habitat Goals? (http://edf.org/wygrasslandbirds) The study examines a wide range of programs under the U.S. Department of Agricultures Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) from 2003 to 2007. It concludes that federal government conservation programs in Wyoming get good grades overall, but basic improvements could make them more successful for ranchers and wildlife alike.

These changes would be a win-win situation for Wyoming, said Ted Toombs, an ecologist in the Boulder, CO office of EDF. (http:// www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=983) If we make sure that the twin rangeland and wildlife goals of NRCS work well together, we can double the benefits of limited funding resources. We can also help ensure that Wyoming maintains healthy wildlife populations, and we can prevent the need to add species to the endangered list.

Eastern Wyoming has 8.6 million acres of native grasslands, most of which are privately owned. NRCS programs are designed to help ranchers manage livestock production on their grasslands in environmentally responsible ways, but right now the programs are not reaching their full potential. EDFs report shows what aspects of the programs are working well, and lists changes that could help reverse the declining populations of a dozen native birds while also maintaining cattle production.

EDFs recommendations include:

-- Using fire as an essential tool. Prescribed fire (fire applied in a knowledgeable manner to forest fuels on a specific land

area under selected weather conditions to accomplish

predetermined, well-defined management objectives) is a tool

that can help manage grassland vegetation quality for birds and

cattle. Using prescribed fire more often could help increase

biodiversity, keep grasslands healthy, and reduce the

possibility of more severe wildfires.

-- Implementing practices that promotevegetation heterogeneity

(diversity)to create habitat for grassland birds and other

wildlife. Maintaining variety in plant structure and species

composition is critical to recovering the full spectrum of

grassland birds. Bird habitat needs vary from heavily grazed

short grasses (the preference of the mountain plover) to

lightly grazed tall grasses and shrubs (a favorite of the

grasshopper sparrow). Current USDA policy encourages moderate,

even grazing utilization; a wider variety in grazing intensity

would improve the overall ecological health of Wyoming


-- Reducing the over-use of cross-fencing and water developments

that can have a direct lethal impact on birds and can fragment


Range management on Wyomings grasslands is mostly oriented toward improving livestock production, said Toombs. Our analysis shows how we can continue to help ranchers with livestock production, but at the same time better address overall rangeland health and wildlife habitat. By implementing a few relatively straightforward changes, we could help keep grassland birds off the endangered species list.

Visit the Web site (http://edf.org/wygrasslandbirds) for more information or to see the entire report.

Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visitwww.edf.org.

CONTACT:Sharyn Stein, Environmental Defense Fund, +1-202-572- 3396, or [email protected]

SOURCE Environmental Defense Fund

(c) 2008 U.S. Newswire. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.