Conservation Issues for Sage-Grouse and Sagebrush Ecosystems

Science Center Objects

Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are the most visible of >350 plant and wildlife species that depend on sagebrush. Their conservation status was determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 to be warranted for listing but precluded by higher priorities. Habitat and population fragmentation, coupled with inadequate regulatory mechanisms to control development on public lands, were the primary factors in the listing decision. Approximately 70% of the current sagebrush distribution within the greater sage-grouse range is public land; the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is responsible for managing half of the sagebrush within the United States. Less than 1% of the sagebrush is within areas protected from land-cover conversion. The remaining public land is managed for multiple uses that include livestock grazing, energy development, and recreation.

Managers have emphasized sage-grouse as indicators of ecosystem health. Considered an umbrella species, strategies to improve habitat for sage-grouse make an implicit assumption that benefits will extend to other wildlife dependent on sagebrush. Therefore, our research is focused on gaining a better understanding of how sagebrush and sage-grouse populations are temporally and spatially interconnected. These relationships then can be significant factors in developing conservation actions that enhance the long-term viability of sagebrush ecosystems.


John Connelly, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Blackfoot, ID
Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies