Greater Sage Grouse
The greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), an iconic ground-dwelling bird native to the arid sagebrush plains of the American West, has experienced significant population declines over the last fifty years, making it a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The population declines have resulted from habitat loss and fragmentation associated with land conversion, energy development, urbanization, wildfire, conifer encroachment, and invasive species.
Although sage-grouse occupy extremely large landscapes (186 million acres), a quarter of all sage-grouse live within 4 percent of the range (7 million acres), and 75 percent of birds are concentrated within 27 percent (50 million acres) of their distribution. In 2010, the NRCS launched the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) to strategically focus conservation efforts to maximize biological benefits to sage-grouse populations. Conservation activities include establishing conservation easements to prevent working ranches from being subdivided; implementing sustainable grazing systems to improve hiding cover for birds; removing invasive conifers from grasslands to allow birds to re-colonize otherwise suitable habitat; and marking or moving “high-risk” fences near breeding sites to reduce bird collisions. The Sage Grouse Initiative capitalizes on the strong link between management required to support healthy sage grouse habitat and sustainable ranching operations.
In August 2010, NRCS and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service completed a Conference Report on the sage-grouse. The Conference Report gives assurances to landowners that implementing conservation practices to restore and enhance sage-grouse habitat will be in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. NRCS is working to ensure that landowner contributions to sage-grouse conservation are considered in future listing decisions, with the hope of reducing the need to list the bird altogether. Working Lands for Wildlife will provide additional, targeted financial and technical support.
Goals and Objectives
Working Lands for Wildlife will assist ranchers voluntarily restore or enhance 400,000 acres of rangeland over five years, combating sage grouse habitat loss and helping to ensure the continued viability of western ranching.
645 Upland Wildlife Habitat Management
Remove encroached conifers, improving habitat for sage-grouse and other wildlife and increasing forage availability for livestock.
Improve grazing systems management, increasing rangeland plant diversity, cover for birds and forage availability for livestock.
Identify and mark fences where sage-grouse collisions are likely reduce accidental mortality caused by fence strikes.
Increase connectivity of existing core habitat.
Improve weed and invasive species management.
Restore and promote healthy, productive springs and seeps
Outcomes and Impacts
Working Lands for Wildlife will enhance NRCS’ ongoing conservation efforts to support sage grouse recovery by strategically focusing resources to promote healthy grazing lands management. Anticipated long-term outcomes of this initiative are: improved rangeland health; greater connectivity of core sage grouse habitat; and stabilization or recovery of sage grouse populations, decreasing the need for future listing.
US Fish and Wildlife Page | Proposed Focal Area Map (PDF, 217KB)