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31

The cattle rancher Joe Painter gives credit to his father for the appreciation of the pheasant, sage grouse, sharptails, ducks, wild turkeys and partridge he has. His cattle ranch outside of Buffalo, South Dakota is certainly an example how ranchers and wildlife can live in harmony.

Throughout his whole life, he has held a love for birds that has translated into a willingness to do anything to keep them on his land.

An example of this action would be his habitat improvement initiatives he has personally implemented on 13,000 acres with the help from Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Painter explains that ranching is not a very profitable business and they are more stewards of the land. This often means he is interested when help is offered and there is a benefit for livestock, wildlife and himself.

He is not the only one – 700 other ranchers have voluntarily enrolled in conservation easements, grazing improvements and conifer removal projects across eleven of the western states. This is all part of an SGI partnership launched in 2010.

Although this partnership was primarily focused on grouse, pheasants do receive significant benefit from the habitat conservation.

However his land also receives considerable benefit.  By allowing up to 200 acres of land to rest for a year and half, Joe Painter comments that there is a chance for the foliage to grow back and recharge. This allows for the roots to become stronger - a “win-win for the birds and the livestock.”

Painter is always on the lookout and listening hard for the wings in the grassland with the lowing of cattle. “It’s nice to leave enough habitat for the birds,” he states.

Do you think Joe is an inspiration for other ranchers?

Let us know in the comments below:

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