Within the lesser prairie-chicken’s range, predatory birds are more abundant in prairie grasslands with mesquite cover than in open grasslands. Photo courtesy of New Mexico State University.
For many, one of the New Year’s first big chores is to remove a tree from inside their home. Trees, beautiful and useful as they are, do not belong everywhere. Such is the case with trees and other woody species that are expanding into the Western grasslands.
Over the years, woody species like juniper, pinyon pine, redcedar and mesquite have encroached on grassland and sagebrush ecosystems, altering these landscapes and making them unsuitable for native wildlife like the lesser prairie-chicken and greater sage-grouse. Encroaching conifers also degrade rangelands for agricultural producers whose livestock rely on nutritious forage. Read more »
New maps reveal the patterns of abundance of sagebrush songbirds, based on Breeding Bird Survey count data combined with sagebrush cover, landform, and climate variables. Shown here is the range-wide relative abundance of Brewer’s sparrow. Map courtesy Patrick Donnelly, IWJV.
The charismatic sage grouse is often in the spotlight as the flagship species in the sagebrush ecosystem. The smaller songbirds that live alongside the grouse don’t always attract as much attention, but they are also good indicators of how the sagebrush range is faring.
Recently, in a project funded by the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Intermountain West Joint Venture (IMJV), scientists set out to evaluate whether investments in sage grouse conservation serve as an “umbrella” that extends benefits to other sagebrush-dependent wildlife, too. These findings are summarized in a new Science to Solutions report by SGI, a partnership led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »
Sage grouse male strutting hoping to attract females.
The greater sage grouse is an iconic bird that lives in the American West’s sagebrush landscape. It’s also a species at the center of a nationwide debate focused on how best to manage its habitat to balance multiple uses and ensure the bird’s long-term survival.
And the dialogue has just been informed by new information from a genetics study that has validated the primary target locations of current conservation efforts. Read more »
Sage grouse are the iconic species of the West’s sagebrush sea. Photo by Tim Griffiths, NRCS.
Removing invading conifer trees improves the health of sagebrush ecosystems, providing better habitat for wildlife and better forage for livestock. And now, new science shows these efforts may also help improve late-season water availability, which is crucial for ecosystems in the arid West.
According to the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI)’s newest Science to Solutions report – which summarized research from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) – a sagebrush-dominated watershed holds water in snow drifts an average of nine days longer than one dominated by juniper trees. Read more »
The SGI Interactive Web Application enables conservationists to help plan the best conservation efforts to restore sage grouse habitat. (Click to enlarge)
The saying “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is often attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to doing conservation planning across 11 states, multiple federal agencies and millions of acres of public and private land.
The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), introduces the SGI Interactive Web Application, a tool that will take habitat restoration efforts for sage grouse to new heights — both visually and on the ground. The tool graphically layers vital pieces of information to paint a more cohesive picture of connected landscapes, so state and federal agencies and their partners can make more effective and targeted decisions. Read more »
Brewer’s sparrow and green-tailed towhee numbers climbed significantly where sagebrush habitat was restored. Gray flycatcher, a songbird that prefers a mix of conifers and sagebrush, saw declines when sagebrush habitat was restored. (Click to enlarge)
The Natural Resources Conservation Service works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for sage grouse with funding through the Sage Grouse Initiative. Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers the 11 Western state range of the bird. About 40 percent of the sage grouse dwell on private lands. David Naugle is a wildlife professor at the University of Montana and the science advisor for SGI, an NRCS-led partnership. —Tim Griffiths, NRCS
By David Naugle, Science Advisor, Sage Grouse Initiative
Restoring sagebrush ecosystems not only benefits ranching and sage grouse but other wildlife, too. New data show that populations of Brewer’s sparrow and green-tailed towhee, two sagebrush-dependent songbirds, climbed significantly in places where invading conifer trees were removed.
Three years after removing trees, Brewer’s sparrow numbers increased by 55 percent and green-tailed towhee numbers by 81 percent relative to areas not restored, according to a new report released by the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI). These two songbirds, both identified as species of conservation concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), serve as early indicators of the effectiveness of restoration work. Read more »