Accessible Navigation. Go to: Navigation Main Content Footer

USDA Awards Highest Honor To UM Wildlife Biology Professor

University of Montana wildlife biology Professor Dave Naugle recently received a 2011 Secretary’s Honor Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for his work on the agency’s major sage grouse conservation initiative.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack presented the annual award – the department’s most prestigious – to Naugle, his colleague Tim Griffiths and their 33-member team at a ceremony held Sept. 14 in Washington, D.C.

As a USDA science adviser for the agency’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Naugle helped develop and implement its Sage Grouse Initiative over the past year and a half.

“It’s exciting to watch Dave help the USDA use science to guide farm bill conservation that mutually benefits ranchers and wildlife in Western sagebrush grasslands,” said Dan Pletscher, UM Wildlife Biology Program director.

Many factors in recent years, including subdivision and oil and gas development, have led to a decline in the sage grouse population so drastic the bird qualifies for listing as an endangered species. The initiative Naugle helped spearhead aims to conserve core breeding grounds for the highest density of sage grouse while simultaneously helping rural, private landowners make a living – a win-win strategy for agriculture and wildlife, according to Naugle. The initiative targets priority areas for conservation within 186 million acres across 11 Western states with funding from existing farm bill resources.

“The key to success is NRCS’s shared vision of achieving world-class wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching,” Naugle said. “Helping Western ranchers maintain large and intact grazing lands is the best way I know to maintain our wildlife legacy for future generations.”

Read more about Naugle's award-winning work here.