Efforts by western states and the energy industry to enhance habitat protections for the greater sage grouse should benefit from the recently unveiled U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Natural Resource Investment Center, said Secretary Sally Jewell.

The center is designed to spur public-private partnerships for water conservation and sage grouse habitat programs similar to some of the government-industry programs that led to DOI’s decision in September to not list the bird as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (see Daily GPI, Sept. 22).

Besides fostering water exchanges across the West, the center is designed to create partnerships to enhance grouse habitat in Nevada, where a collaboration with DOI, Barrick Gold of North America and The Nature Conservancy has expanded efforts (see Daily GPI, Dec. 9, 2014).

“Though the greater sage grouse was not listed for ESA protection this fall, full implementation of federal, state and voluntary conservation plans is absolutely critical and cannot be compromised,” said Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership CEO Whit Fosburgh. He envisions the center as focusing on “creative solutions” for grouse landscape-level conservation.

Jewell outlined the plans for the center at a White House Roundtable on Water Innovation, emphasizing the use of market-based tools and public-private collaborations.

The goals related to protecting the grouse population are a combination of more efficient permitting and landscape-level conservation.

“Given increased development pressures, climate impact and constrained budgets, the Interior Department is pursuing innovative approaches with private-sector organizations to help accomplish our balanced land management/conservation mission,” Jewell said. “As a former CEO, I am confident the private sector can play a meaningful role.” She formerly was chief of retailer Recreational Equipment Inc., better known as REI (see Daily GPI, Feb. 7 2013).

The center would work with the private sector and others to identify ideas and financing options for projects that conserve water and protect species’ habitat, DOI said.