Clearing Away Invaders and Restoring the Sage
Woody plant expansion (mostly juniper species and pinyon pine) is a primary threat driving fragmentation and loss of sagebrush habitats and causing sage grouse declines. Conifers displace the shrubs and understory that are important for sage grouse to thrive, and provide perches for avian predators. Although native, these trees have spread into millions of acres of sagebrush habitats due to a combination of 100 years of fire suppression, historic overgrazing, and climate conditions. In a range-wide effort, land managers have collaborated to restore the quality of working sagebrush landscapes by removing conifers across public and private lands.
Putting Science into Practice
Recent science is helping us understand how much conifer invasion is detrimental to sage grouse as well as the spatial extent and degree of conifer invasion. We’re learning that the spatial configuration and size of trees can impact lek activity and that nesting in and near treatments increases through time after conifer removal. Research like this is helping create decision support tools to quantify and track threat reduction.
Here, we communicate about the latest science produced by leading conservation entities. Our focus will be on promoting actionable science and decision support tools.
Management Tools and Success Stories
Relevant Science on Conifer Removal:
Pretreatment tree dominance and conifer removal treatments affect plant succession in sagebrush communities by Williams, R. et al. 2017
Pinyon and Juniper Encroachment into Sagebrush Ecosystems Impacts Distribution and Survival of Greater Sage-Grouse by Peter S. Coates et al. 2017
Encounters with Pinyon-Juniper Influence Riskier Movements in Greater Sage-Grouse Across the Great Basin by Brian G. Prochazka et al. 2017
Extending Conifer Removal and Landscape Protection Strategies from Sage-grouse to Songbirds, a Range-Wide Assessment by J.P. Donnelly et al. 2017
Mapping Tree Canopy Cover in Support of Proactive Prairie Grouse Conservation in Western North America by M.J. Falkowski et al. 2017
Effects of Conifer Expansion on Greater Sage-Grouse Nesting Habitat Selection by A. Olson et al. 2016
- Spotlight -
The sagebrush steppe is a sometimes forgotten part of Montana when spectacular alpine peaks and deep forests dominate the skyline. Fortunately, the Southwest Montana Sagebrush Partnership (SMSP) came together to advocate for this unique corner of the sagebrush sea. Here at the headwaters of the Missouri River, the sagebrush steppe connects our precious snowpack to headwater tributaries and provides migration routes for wide-ranging wildlife such as grizzly, pronghorn, and Greater Sage-grouse. This sagebrush steppe is home to multi-generational family ranches intermixed with public land and supports Montana’s important recreational and agricultural economies. It is these high-elevation sagebrush grasslands that have shaped communities, local economies, and a way of life in Southwest Montana, but some serious challenges are looming. This partnership is aimed at finding solutions and putting them to work on the ground… Keep reading here.