We believe that developing partnerships in communities across the West takes time, trust and credibility, and relationship building among public and private partners. The BLM and IWJV are investing in people in priority landscapes to develop lasting conservation partnerships in the form of community-based conservation capacity. The following individuals are helping to coordinate across public and private boundaries, break through bottlenecks and challenges, track projects and success, and facilitate forums that bring partners together.
Nevada’s Bi-State Local Area Working Group Coordinator: Amy Sturgill
The Bi-State Local Area Working Group (LAWG) works across jurisdictional boundaries to conserve Greater Sage-grouse and their habitats in the eastern Sierra region of California and Nevada. The LAWG was in need of someone to help the working group continue to grow and advance. In August 2018,they hired Amy Sturgill as their Bi-State Coordinator. Her duties include coordination, data management, and communications to review and report what has been accomplished in the Bi-State Action Plan, in addition to improving communication both internally and externally by updating the Bi-State website, developing success stories, leading field trips and volunteer events, facilitating meetings and coordinating among partners about current projects.
Sturgill’s position is hosted by the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association; she is based in the BLM Bishop Field Office, and is supported by BLM, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 8, Humboldt-Toiyabe and Inyo National Forests, Carson City District, and the Bi-State LAWG.
Northwestern Utah’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Alliance Coordinator: Calee Garn
Local, regional and national partners founded the Sagebrush Ecosystem Alliance (SEA), a partnership that provides assistance to deliver technical support for implementing conservation practices that benefit the sagebrush system in West Box Elder County. This primarily includes restoring wet meadows, controlling invading conifers, reducing fire risk and invasive species, and coordinating among partners to facilitate the planning and implementation of appropriate grazing practices and range structural improvements, among other projects. In 2017, Calee Gram was hired as the SEA Coordinator and is playing a critical role in assisting with project coordination and communications between the BLM and landowners, particularly in post-fire restoration efforts. Her role has been especially valuable in these efforts due to the fact that northwestern Utah experienced particularly devastating wildfires in both 2017 and 2018.
Gram’s position is funded by a partnership between the BLM, Utah State University, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Mule Deer Foundation. Additional partners include Utah NRCS, Utah Partners for Fish and Wildlife of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah Grazing Improvement Program, and the West Box Elder Coordinated Resource Management Group. Gram is located in the NRCS Tremonton Field Office.
Southwest Montana Sagebrush Conservation Partnership Coordinator: Sean Claffey
Needing a dedicated position to facilitate their collaborative work, the Southwest Montana Sagebrush Partnership hired Sean Claffey in June 2018 as their Coordinator. In his role, Claffey is tasked with stimulating, coordinating and completing priority habitat restoration and enhancement projects within sagebrush steppe and associated systems. The goal of the position is to build strategic, scientific and technical capacity in the field, deepen key partnerships, identify and resolve technical issues and widely communicate solutions and best practices. Claffey is working with private and public partners to manage and advance cross-boundary habitat restoration and enhancement projects within the High Divide Headwaters region of Montana.
Claffey’s position is currently funded by a partnership between The Nature Conservancy of Montana, BLM, Mountain-Prairie Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and IWJV. Additional partners include: Montana NRCS, Montana Partners for Fish and Wildlife U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Beaverhead Watershed Committee, U.S. Forest Service, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Claffey is located in the BLM Dillon field office.
Idaho Rangeland Conservation Partnership Coordinator: Brenda Richards
Stakeholders established the Idaho Rangeland Conservation Partnership (IRCP) to formalize collaboration among existing land management entities, private land owners, livestock producers, conservation organizations, and other committed partners to foster positive results on rangelands. Brenda Richards was hired as the Coordinator to build the IRCP network and support locally-led rangeland collaboratives, organize meetings, develop a business plan, and coordinate communications to amplify outcomes achieved by the IRCP. She will also act as liaison with other similar efforts outside of Idaho, creating opportunities for shared learning and collaboration regionally. Richards has a degree in business accounting and almost 30 years of experience working policy and rangeland management.
Richards’ position is hosted by the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission and is funded by Idaho Rangeland Resources Commission, Idaho Office of Species Conservation, The Nature Conservancy of Idaho, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Idaho Cattle Association, University of Idaho, Idaho Department of Lands, Idaho State Department of Agriculture. Richards is based in Murphy, Idaho.
Wyoming’s Sage Grouse Initiative-Pheasants Forever Field Staff: Mandi Hirsch
The NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative’s longest-standing field position, held by Mandi Hirsch, is based in Lander, Wyoming. Hirsch teams up with local landowners, NGOs, state and federal partners to implement conservation practices to address resource concerns that benefit rangelands, wildlife habitat, and livestock operations. Since lands managed by the BLM are an integral part of many Wyoming ranching operations in this area, Hirsch works extensively with ranchers, as the public land lessees, to implement cooperative conservation practices across ownership boundaries. These practices entail whole ranch grazing plans, noxious weed treatments, and conifer removal, among others. In that conservation and grazing plans are complicated, she communicates frequently with the landowner to ensure they can satisfy the ranch’s goals and objectives and guarantee compliance with BLM permits, rules, and regulations, all while staying within the parameters of the conservation programs they are utilizing.
Hirsch’s position is currently funded by NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative, BLM, The Nature Conservancy and Rocky Mountain Power. She is hosted by Pheasants Forever and is based in the Popo Agie Conservation District office.
Idaho’s Sage Grouse Initiative-Pheasants Forever Field Staff: Connor White
The Idaho BLM Burley Field Office completed a large environmental assessment on 30,000 acres, primarily to remove encroaching conifers in sagebrush habitats. NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative-Pheasants Forever field staff, Connor White, has played an integral role in expediting projects like this one on BLM lands by assisting with efficient contracting and providing coordination between partners including the BLM, NRCS, public land permittees, U.S. Forest Service, and others. This has allowed for the conservation treatment of conifer removal to expand across landownership boundaries and have a full watershed-scale impact for wildlife and working lands. With the 30,000-acre EA now accomplished, White is working on Phase 2 of this project with local partners conducting new assessments and other large projects across multiple ownerships.
White’s position is currently funded by NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative, BLM, and Idaho Game and Fish. He is hosted by Pheasants Forever and is based in Burley, Idaho.
Outcome-based Grazing Coordinator: Duane Coombs
In September 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced an initiative known as Outcome-Based Grazing Authorizations (OBGAs). It is designed to offer a more collaborative approach between the BLM and its partners within the livestock grazing community when issuing grazing authorizations. The purpose of this project is to improve BLM’s management of grazing on public lands by offering livestock managers greater flexibility to more readily respond to changing on-the-ground conditions, such as drought or wildfire. This will better ensure healthy rangelands, high quality wildlife habitat, and economically sustainable ranching operations. The program highlights BLM’s commitment to partnerships, which are vital to managing sustainable, working public lands.
Coombs brings 30 years of experience ranching on public lands to the role of the Outcome Base Grazing Program Coordinator. Coombs led the team at Smith Creek Ranch when they were awarded the 2010 BLM Rangeland Stewardship Award and the Region VI Environmental Stewardship Award from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and USFWS in 2016. Coombs sees the principals and practices used at Smith Creek Ranch as an important foundation to the transfer of conservation at a larger scale through the OBGA pilot program. Throughout the next three years, Coombs will visit each of the pilot ranches annually. He is helping facilitate the sharing of information and building a network among these ranches to share lessons learned and best practices.
This opportunity fits in to the BLM-IWJV’s Partnering to Conserve Sagebrush Rangelands effort broader mission and purpose by recognizing and addressing the complexities of landscape management in the mixed estate found in the intermountain west. By proactively addressing whole ranch operations the BLM-IWJV partnership ensures sustainable rural communities and ecologically vibrant landscapes are achieved through a conservation centric model.