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What Are the Issues

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested input from a panel of scientific experts outside the agency to assist in making a reasonable projection of the species’ potential extinction risk. The panel consisted of experts in sage-grouse biology and ecology, sagebrush community ecology, and range ecology and management. Panel members were asked to list the threats to sage-grouse in order of importance based on their professional opinion. They came up with a list of nineteen. The list and the results of their relative ranking were published in the January 2005 Issue of the newsletter, Sage Sense.

The ranking is being presented here only as a tool to facilitate discussion amongst those involved in conservation planning efforts for sage-grouse and sagebrush ecosystems. While it reflects the opinion of experts in sage-grouse and sagebrush ecology, these rankings were identified at large scales. The rankings presented here are “range wide” rankings. These rankings are not assumed to be applicable to every location. Therefore it is very important to use local information when planning conservation efforts.

Threats to Sage-Grouse
Threat (range wide) Relative Rank
Invasive Plant Species 70
Infrastructure 68
Wildfire 52
Agriculture 50
Detrimental Grazing 42
Oil and Gas 40
Urbanization 39
Coal Strip Mining 37
Weather 33
Conifer Invasion 32
Human 29
Predation 29
Disease 21
Water Developments 18
Prescribed Fire 14
Hard Rock Mining 12
Hunting 10
Climate Change 8
Contaminants 3


  • Infrastructure includes fences, roads, power lines, communications towers, and pipelines, developed for any purpose.
  • Agriculture includes activities primarily associated with farming. Grazing includes all activities primarily associated with grazing.
  • Weather refers to short time events, including but not limited to late season snowstorms, drought, etc. Climate change refers to long-term, permanent weather changes, usually occurring over a period of 100 years of more.
  • Conifer invasion primarily refers to pinyon/juniper
  • Human refers to an increased human presences in sagebrush ecosystems from recreational, residential, and resource development activities.