Did You Know?
Sage grouse and ranchers both depend on the same vast, intact rangelands. When ranching profits go down, the pressures go up to sell for housing or other uses that fragment the sagebrush sea. The Sage Grouse Initiative helps ranchers keep their lands intact, and improve them for higher and sustainable yields and profits – restoration that helps sage grouse thrive, too.
Sage Grouse – Dwindling numbers prompt conservation action
Envision the western sagebrush plains when bison roamed great expanses lacking cities, highways or plowed lands. In those presettlement days, sage grouse numbered in the millions; today, their populations have slipped to about 200,000. The underlying cause for population declines is loss of suitable sagebrush habitat to meet seasonal requirements for food, cover, and nesting. Without intact, large and healthy sagebrush grasslands, the birds cannot survive.
The Perfect Umbrella Species
Their diverse seasonal habitat requirements and extensive home ranges also make sage grouse a perfect "umbrella species" for many other grassland birds and animals. Simply put, doing good things for sage grouse ensures benefits to many other wildlife species, including mule deer, pronghorn, elk, and sagebrush-dependent songbirds. Healthy, working ranchlands are key to conserving this species.
Rancher Partnerships for Win-Win Conservation
Partnering with ranchers and using win-win conservation solutions that benefit grazing lands and sage-grouse habitat, the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) seeks to proactively conserve the species and keep populations healthy enough to avoid an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing.
Endangered Species Act (ESA) – sage grouse qualifies but is not listed
In 2010, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) gave the sage grouse a designation of “warranted but precluded” under the ESA. That means that the science shows the birds qualify to be listed and protected, but that other higher priority species come first. The designation gives partners across the west extra time to take action to prevent the need for listing.
Private Landowners Benefit from Teaming Up with SGI
Soon after SGI launched its recovery efforts, the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and FWS issued a Conference Report on sage grouse conservation – ensuring that the practices of SGI would help restore populations. Their positive conclusion gives landowners the assurance that as long as they are applying the practices of SGI, they will be in full compliance of the ESA, should the sage grouse be listed in the future. That measure gives landowners peace of mind and more incentives to team up with the program that’s designed to help ranchers stay in business and sage grouse recover simultaneously.