Programmatic Sage-grouse Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances
The purpose of this Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) is to maintain and/or improve greater sage-grouse habitat while contributing to the economic sustainability of landowners and maintaining the ranching culture and agricultural way of life in Baker and Union counties.
Greater sage-grouse are a unique, charismatic bird of western North America. They enjoy large, contiguous habitat and are probably most well known for their mating displays. During the mating season (typically March–May), males congregate in areas known as leks, fill up their bright yellow air sacs, and strut "popping" their air sacs as they go making an extraordinary sound. Like the sound of a droplet of water, males hope their dance will attract the very scrutinous females. A lek is definitely an incredible sight to see. Unfortunately, sage-grouse, a species of conservation concern, have experienced range contraction and significant declines in many populations. According to a new report by the United States Geological Survey, sage-grouse populations have declined 80% since 1965 with continued downward trends anticipated for many populations. While many factors contribute to sage-grouse population declines, a primary threat across their range is loss of habitat due to increased surface disturbance and general fragmentation of the landscape.
Over the decades, petitions to list the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act have been many. In 2010, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) found that sage-grouse were "warranted but precluded" and that a reevaluation of the species would be completed in 2015. In anticipation of the final listing decision private landowners, Baker County, Baker County Livestock Association, Baker Valley Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), USFWS, Oregon Department of Wildlife, and Oregon State University developed a programmatic CCAA.
A CCAA is a voluntary agreement whereby landowners agree to manage their lands to remove or reduce threats to a species that may become listed under the ESA. In return for managing their lands to the benefit of a species at risk, landowners receive assurances against additional regulatory requirements should that species ever be listed under the ESA. The programmatic design of this agreement, its “umbrella” nature, streamlines the process for landowner enrollment.
There are three goals this programmatic CCAA is designed to meet:
Provide participating landowners assurances that current ranch and land management practices covered by this CCAA will continue in the event sage-grouse is listed under the ESA, provided that the CCAA is being implemented as agreed upon.
Promote conservation measures (CMs) that reduce or remove threats to sage-grouse through proactive ranch and land management, providing comprehensive conservation to meet the CCAA standard.
Provide an ecological approach to maintain current sage-grouse habitat and to improve habitat that is not meeting conservation objectives, as identified in enrolled landowners’ site specific plans (SSPs)
Enrollees in the CCAA program usually may have access to unique funding opportunities and preference for other cost-share programs. Since the agreement is voluntary, the landowner can end their agreement at any point, although in doing so, any assurances and incidental take coverage for the enrolled landowner under the enhancement of survival (EOS) permit would terminate.
Many landowners already implement conservation actions that may overlap with CCAA conservation measures. If you would like to learn more, have questions, or think the CCAA program may be a good fit for your property, please feel free to reach out to the Sage-grouse CCAA Coordinator Emmy Tyrrell (pbwcscqwestoffice.net; 775-770-0128).