Greater sage-grouse are hanging on at just 3% of their historical numbers, and warrant protection, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). But since other species are in even more dire straits, the birds haven't been declared a threatened or endangered species.
In one set of efforts to help pull the birds back from the brink, the US Dept. of Agriculture has made about $71 million available to landowners in FY 2011. The money is for voluntary "cooperative conservation" programs aimed at saving the birds and their habitat.
The most recent award, $18.2 million, was funneled through the Grassland Reserve Program. It targets ranchers in ID, UT, and WY. If you publish or broadcast in one of these states, you may discover a local story by tracking down awardees.
- "USDA To Protect Prime Sage-Grouse Habitat In Three Western States,"  USDA Release of June 30, 2011.
Earlier, $53 million was made available through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program. Landowners in 11 Western states (CA, CO, ID, MT, ND, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, and WY) have been eligible to go after these pots of money.
For more information on each of the 5 programs, see:
- NRCS Conservation Programs; Alphabetical List of NRCS Programs and Activities. 
To find out which landowners are getting this money, and whether the money is being properly and effectively spent, check with the appropriate state office of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS):
One of the controversial issues related to the decimated birds is that they often occupy habitat that also is prime territory for wind energy. Any designation of the birds as threatened or endangered might crimp efforts to build wind turbines. For one take on this conflict, see:
- "The Messy Mix of Energy and Sage Grouse,"  High Country News, Dec. 21, 2009, by Jonathan Thompson.
Previous Story: For much more on sage-grouse issues, see the TipSheet of Dec. 8, 2010.