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


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.


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