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 »
USDA today unveiled Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, its roadmap to guide voluntary conservation efforts on private grazing lands in the West. Photo courtesy of Ken Miracle.
Today, USDA released its new long-term investment strategy for sage grouse conservation—Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 (SGI 2.0). USDA’s planned investments will complement the great conservation work already happening throughout the West and build on the work of the Sage Grouse Initiative, a partnership between USDA, ranchers and conservation groups that began in 2010. SGI 2.0 provides our partners a roadmap to fill unmet needs by rallying around a cohesive, partnership-focused conservation strategy that is good for cattle ranches, good for the bird, good for rural economies and good for sustaining the Western way of life.
The SGI 2.0 investment strategy is intended to be a living document, shaped by the best available science and the priorities of our partners. SGI 2.0 and other strategic partnership initiatives like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program underscore the growing demand for a new conservation philosophy of putting local partners in the driver’s seat and allowing them to set priorities and develop strategies that make sense for their operations and communities while still meeting conservation goals. Read more »
The population of the greater sage-grouse has grown by nearly two-thirds since 2013, according to a new survey. USDA NRCS photo.
The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated greater sage-grouse in 2010 as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Later this year, the FWS will determine whether to list the species or remove it from consideration based on the conservation actions implemented to remove threats across the range. However, a recent survey points towards an optimistic outlook for sage grouse.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been working for the past five years through the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) to proactively conserve sage grouse and sustain the working rangelands that support western ranching economies. During this time, this innovative partnership led by NRCS has joined forces with 1,100 ranchers who have conserved 6,000 square miles of habitat, an area of working lands twice the size of Yellowstone National Park. Partnership investment of more than $424 million has been highly targeted to areas of high bird abundance to maximize benefits to populations. Read more »
Clip-on plastic reflective fence markers allow the sage grouse to see fences on the landscape. Photo by Jeremy R. Roberts, Conservation Media
In the “Old West”, barbed wire fences were often cut to allow trailing droves of cattle through. In the “New West,” livestock fencing is being marked to help reduce collisions for sage grouse and other wildlife.
Sage grouse are especially at risk of hitting fences that are close to established leks, spring courtship dancing grounds, where males usually fly in the dark to gather. The flatter the landscape, the harder it is for the grouse to see the fences. In the most at-risk landscapes, biologists estimate an average of one collision for every mile of fence. Read more »