Reporting Lessons Learned from the Sage Grouse

The following report was produced by Partners for Conservation, a grassroots movement of private landowners working with agencies, non-profit organizations, and policymakers to collaborate on conservation projects to sustain our working landscapes for present and future generations.

The collaborative partnerships that developed from 2010 to 2015 have been recognized as a key reason why the Greater Sage-grouse was kept off the federal endangered species list. Whether partnerships between federal and state agencies with private landowners, restoration projects coordinated between non-profit groups and land management agencies, or the thousands of hours negotiating state sage-grouse conservation plans, the collaborative efforts across the West were – and still are – unprecedented.

But what made these efforts unique? What was it that brought so many different perspectives to the literal, and figurative, table? And perhaps most importantly, what lessons can be learned from the successes and challenges that developed throughout the process. To answer these questions, Partners for Conservation interviewed more than 40 individuals who were actively engaged in sage-grouse collaborative efforts. Those interviewed represent a variety of perspectives from landowners to industry to non-profit organizations to decision makers that were involved in the negotiations at all levels of government. The perspectives also reflect the different scales in which sage-grouse collaborations developed, from individual operations and watershed groups to state and national levels.

In the report, Dave Smith from the Intermountain West Joint Venture said, “Success or failure in sage grouse conservation had, and still has, far-reaching implications on the economy, communities, and natural resources of the West. Even more importantly, the hallmark of the effort was the incredible commitment to solving problems through partnerships and tangible, on-the-ground conservation. It was not a battle waged by policy wonks and litigants; it was a joint endeavor to sustain an ecosystem and its people in a way that supported the American public.”

This report provides a synopsis of the various responses and identifies the primary themes that emerged across the perspectives. By identifying what worked well – and where the greatest challenges emerged – there are lessons to be learned. The hope is that the information generated will help guide collaborative conservation on future natural resource challenges.