Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has proposed the state spend $750,000 to help conserve sage grouse habitat in the state to keep it from being listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Otter told state lawmakers the sage grouse issue along with the issue of transmission lines could end up being resolved in federal court.
“I hope not, and we are working hard with Idaho landowners, sportsmen, federal land managers and other stakeholders to find common ground through our administrative processes on those issues," Otter said.
His budget includes $250,000 for conservation programs, including $75,000 for lek monitoring for Idaho Fish and Game $120,000 for training and equipment for the state’s Rangeland Fire Protection Associations, $50,000 for regional coordination efforts and $5000 for the Office of Species Conservation.
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Another $250,000 is earmarked for conservation initiatives on private land including $150,000 to leverage private and federal dollars, $45,000 for habitat restoration and projects to reduce fire hazards for private landowners, $25,000 to finalize a mitigation strategy that would offset development such as transmission lines in lower priority habitat, $25,000 for the legal costs of defending Otter’s strategy and $5,000 for the Office of Species Conservation.
Finally, Otter proposes $250,000 in funds for the Idaho Department of Lands for conservation on state endowment lands including post fire seeding, grouse friendly fencing and fire breaks.
The funding is a good start, said Will Whelan, public affairs director of the Nature Conservancy of Idaho and a member of Otter’s Sage Grouse Task Force.
“This is good for Idaho’s environment and for people who depend on our rangelands,” said Whelan.