An aerial view of mastication efforts to remove pinyon and juniper trees encroaching in bi-state sage grouse habitat on a Smith Valley rancher’s Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment, east of Minden, Nevada. The pinyon and juniper removal is part of an NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative project near the Conifer Forum field tour location. (Photo courtesy NRCS)
Bi-state sage-grouse, a geographically distinct population of small game bird that lives along the border of Nevada and California, rely on a healthy sagebrush ecosystem. One of the largest habitat threats to the sage-grouse is the encroachment of pinyon and juniper trees.
Once pinyon and juniper trees move into a sagebrush-steppe area, they act simultaneously like straws and umbrellas — sucking out what little water hits the soil, while providing a canopy to catch rainfall so little moisture reaches the plants and shrubs below the trees. Little by little, the trees can close in on an area, squeezing out precious habitat for the sage-grouse. They also deter sage-grouse from landing in the area, as the birds are frightful of these tall, foreign objects that interrupt their flight path and provide a perch for predators. Read more »
The area between the Pioneer Mountains and Craters of the Moon National Monument encompasses a large expanse of sagebrush ecosystem that is vitally important to sage-grouse and other wildlife. Photo by Pioneers Alliance.
Stretching from Sun Valley to Arco, Idaho, the Pioneer Mountain region encompasses high mountain peaks, river valleys and sagebrush steppe that supports a rich variety of wildlife and some of the best remaining sage-grouse habitat in Idaho.
Sage-grouse inhabit the lower elevations of this relatively un-fragmented landscape. Covered with sagebrush, crossed by clear streams, and dotted with lush wet meadows, this area is key habitat for grouse. Read more »
The greater sage grouse thrives in the sagebrush landscape of the West. USDA NRCS photo.
The Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI) is one of our shining stars at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service – it’s become the model for voluntary, incentive-based conservation at its best. Through conservation science and partnerships at the federal, state and local levels, we’re making a huge impact for conservation and agriculture.
We launched SGI in 2010 to target efforts to protect sage-grouse and its habitat and to help sustain working rangelands for the long-term. Through SGI, we’re bringing back grouse populations, while at the same time, helping to improve ranching operations. Read more »
Michael Brown shows the key places he and others at the NRCS work with ranchers and other partners to conserve and connect sage-grouse habitat. SGI photo by Deborah Richie.
When many different groups come together for a common goal, the impacts can be tremendous. That’s the case for the sage-grouse, an at-risk bird in the American West. Since 2010, over 1,100 ranches have teamed with the Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI) and conserved 4.4 million acres across 11 western states, an area equivalent of 2 Yellowstone National Parks. The diverse partnership led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service includes ranchers, state and federal agencies, universities, non-profit groups and businesses that rally around a common vision of conserving wildlife through sustainable ranching.
SGI continues to grow and just over the weekend ConocoPhillips announced the company will invest $1 million to further strengthen the partnership. The contribution was made to the Intermountain West Joint Venture, one of the key partners of SGI. New funding will be used to extend the partnership through 2019 by providing $200,000 per year to support SGI’s Strategic Watershed Action Team, or SWAT. This team provides field delivery, science, communications and partner development support to SGI. Read more »
A sage grouse chick on the Big Creek Ranch - photo taken in the wet meadow area that's important for brood-rearing. (Alexis Collins, NRCS, photo)
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. Steve Stuebner is a freelance writer for the Sage Grouse Initiative, a partnership that includes NRCS.—Alexis Collins, NRCS Idaho
By Steve Stuebner, for the Sage Grouse Initiative
From a hilltop in the upper Pahsimeroi Valley, Rosana Rieth points to a large pancake-like flat. That’s where about 80-100 sage grouse come to mate each spring in the shadow of the highest mountain peaks in Idaho’s Lost River Mountains.
It’s a perfect spot for a sage grouse lek – the land is flat, surrounded by sagebrush, remote and next to the Pahsimeroi River. Read more »
Dennis Sun on Sun Ranch, west of Casper, Wyo., with NRCS intern Meghan McPhaden. Photo credit: Haley Lockwood/NRCS
Dennis Sun, owner of the Sun Ranch west of Casper, Wyo. and publisher/owner of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, is making his ranch friendlier for a small bird that he can neither sell nor hunt. That’s because he wanted to help ensure that the sage grouse doesn’t get listed as an endangered species.
The sage grouse is a ground-dwelling bird native to the sagebrush ecosystem of the American West. Once numbering 16 million, it has dwindled to as few as 200,000 birds. About 40 percent of all sage grouse are found in Wyoming. Read more »