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.

We plan to 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

- Spotlight -

OR_O'Keefe and cut junipers_Deb Richie.jpg

Cutting for Conservation on the California/Oregon/Nevada Borders

In the northern Great Basin, low sagebrush and mountain big sagebrush roll across the arid landscape, providing valuable habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife and productive grazing lands for livestock. A broad coalition of cooperators and contributors are partnering on landscape-scale removal of encroaching conifers to improve range health across borders in southeastern Oregon, northeastern California, and northwestern Nevada.

Western junipers are encroaching into sagebrush rangelands, threatening sage grouse strongholds and agricultural operations. While junipers are native trees, altered fire regimes have allowed woodlands to expand ten-fold beyond their historic footprint, overtaking former sagebrush and grass-dominated habitats. As these conifers expand, they outcompete other native shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers for precious water resources and soil nutrients.

Keep reading about what partners are doing to combat these trees.