Rangeland bird habitat grants for western Wyo ranchers

WESTERN WYOMING­ – Audubon Rockies just received a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) grant that will, combined with matching funds, provide $344,800 for habitat management on ranches in western Wyoming.

Starting in the fall of 2022, ranchers in Sublette, Teton, Lincoln, Uinta, Fremont and Sweetwater counties will be eligible to receive financial support for improving habitat management on their lands.

Audubon Rockies will distribute the funds through Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Initiative, a growing effort to stabilize declining rangeland bird populations in partnership with ranchers. The funds will be spent on on-the-ground ranch-land habitat projects, ultimately improving rangeland bird management across 50,000 acres of rangeland in western Wyoming to benefit species such as greater sage-grouse, sage thrasher and ferruginous hawk.

Ranchers interested in receiving support for habitat management should contact Dusty Downey, conservation ranching manager for Audubon Rockies, at 504-453-4124 or [email protected].

“Like grasslands everywhere, Wyoming’s prairie and sagebrush ecosystems are in danger,” said Downey. “As stewards of Wyoming’s rangelands, ranchers are our best hope for conserving rangeland birds. This funding will help ranchers improve the health of their land, which will benefit their businesses, birds, and other wildlife.”

Through Audubon's Conservation Ranching Initiative, enrolled private landowners implement habitat improvements for birds and other wildlife through a certification program. Once third-party verified, producers earn use of Audubon’s certification seal, a consumer package designation that identifies a product’s origin from lands managed for birds and biodiversity. So far, nine Wyoming ranches that span more than 396,800 acres have received Audubon’s certification.

Nationally, grassland birds have declined by 53 percent since 1970, or about 720 million birds. In Wyoming, native breeding species like chestnut-collared and thick-billed longspurs, Baird’s sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, Sprague’s pipit and the lark bunting are impacted. Still ripe with bird life, Wyoming provides breeding habitat for some of the continent’s most imperiled grassland songbirds. But Wyoming’s grasslands are at high risk of conversion to cropland or other developed uses.

“This market-based conservation program creates a financial incentive for keeping rangelands intact,” Downey said, “Preventing the loss of rangelands benefits both people and birds.”

Audubons Conservation Ranching Initiative

A wildlife habitat initiative of the National Audubon Society with a unique market approach, Audubon Conservation Ranching’s purpose is to stabilize declining grassland bird populations in partnership with ranchers – on whose property 95 percent of grassland birds live. Audubon Conservation Ranching’s enrollment includes 92 ranches, covering more than 2.5 million acres that have earned status as Audubon Certified bird-friendly land. Incentivizing this habitat work for birds and biodiversity are consumers with an appetite for conservation, who support it with the purchase of products grazed on these lands. Shoppers see a special package designation – the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal – that sets these products apart.

For more information, visit Audubon.org/ranching.

Audubon Rockies

Audubon Rockies, the regional National Audubon Society office for Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, conserves and restores natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. Learn more at rockies.audubon.org and by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @audubonrockies.