CARSON CITY — A $2 million matching grant approved by the Pentagon will help restore and protect land for sage-grouse habitat and the sagebrush ecosystem under Naval Air Station Fallon’s airspace, reports the governor’s office.
According to the release, the award will leverage more than $4 million in partner funding to protect more than 11,000 acres of prime greater sage-grouse habitat underneath the Fallon Range Training Complex’s 13,000 square miles of training airspace in central Nevada.
Partners of the military services’ Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program proposal include the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), NAS Fallon, the Nevada Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, the Nevada Conservation Districts Program, the Bureau of Land Management and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“That they all came together is pretty monumental in itself,” said Heather Emmons, the state’s spokeswoman for the Reno office of NRCS. “These funds help accelerate Nevada’s cooperative partners implement the 2014 Nevada Greater Sage-grouse Plan to restore, enhance and protect sagebrush habitat. Additional cooperative partners coming to the table helps amplify the amount of beneficial sagebrush ecosystem conservation that is being implemented.”
The Associated Press reports the Department of Defense program also recently approved $2 million to help protect 7,000 acres of gopher tortoise habitat surrounding Fort Benning, Ga., and $2 million to protect 10,000 acres of forest in Maine affiliated with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s survival school.
NAS Fallon spokesman Zip Upham said NDOW and NCRS have taken the lead on protecting the land for sage-grouse habitat. According to Upham, the Navy controls the airspace but not the land below.
“The Navy helped with the funding so that the habitat gets protected,” he said. “The Navy is not running it.”
Upham said if certain areas were designated to protect the sage grouse’s habitat, then it could affect the Navy flying over the designated terrain.
Upham said the lands under Navy airspace that would be affected the most extend from eastern Churchill County into Lander and Eureka counties. He said there is very little sage grouse habitat in the Lahontan Valley.
He said the affected land does not include the bombing ranges.
Rob Rule, community plans and liaison officer for NAS Fallon, said everyone will benefit from the funding.
This is the first time Nevada partners have applied for the REPI Challenge, which allows the Military Services to enter into unique cost-sharing partnerships with state and local governments and private conservation organizations to preserve compatible land uses around military installations and to conserve natural landscapes in support of military readiness.
“This unique partnership between the military and environmental partners is the first of its kind in Nevada, and I appreciate having the military as a new partner in our efforts to protect sagebrush habitat and the greater sage grouse,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said.
With REPI Challenge funding, participating organizations will work with landowners and land management agencies who own and manage sage-grouse key habitat to remove threats and enhance habitat through pinion and juniper removal, spring restorations, fencing improvements, appropriate grazing techniques and conservation easement protection.
“We are thrilled to be able to move forward at an increased pace to protect parcels of greater sage-grouse habitat, thanks to the REPI Challenge award and the commitment by so many partners,” said NDOW Director Tony Wasley.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has to make a court-ordered decision by Sept. 30 on whether to add the bird to the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
LVN Editor Steve Ranson contributed local information to this article.