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

2017 Filmed Presentations on Conifer Expansion

Sage Grouse Initiative Interactive Web Tool

Juniper Mastication on the Burley, Idaho Landscape

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Sage Grouse Conservation Benefits Songbird Trio

Evaluating the benefits of sage grouse conservation for other species is an important part of our landscape conservation strategy. Researchers examined whether benefits from sage grouse conservation extend to three species of songbirds: Brewer’s sparrow, sagebrush sparrow and sage thrasher.

These bird species—native to sagebrush ecosystems—are among the fastest declining bird groups in North America. Like sage grouse, the sagebrush birds are considered important indicators of ecosystem condition because of their sensitivity to habitat changes.

In this study, our science partners used new methods to give us the first habitat-based picture of the range-wide abundance of sagebrush songbirds. Plus they evaluated how conifer removal and other conservation practices for sage grouse resulted in benefits to these songbirds.

For more information, see Extending Conifer Removal and Landscape Protection Strategies from Sage-grouse to Songbirds, a Range-Wide Assessment