Livestock grazing and sage-grouse habitat: impacts and opportunities

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Sage-grouse obtain resources for breeding, summer, and winter life stages from sagebrush communities. Grazing can change the productivity, composition, and structure of herbaceous plants in sagebrush communities, thus directly influencing the productivity of nesting and early brood-rearing habitats. Indirect influences of livestock grazing and ranching on sage-grouse habitat include fencing, watering facilities, treatments to increase livestock forage, and targeted grazing to reduce fine fuels. To illustrate the relative value of sagebrush habitats to sage-grouse on year-round and seasonal bases, we developed state and transition models to conceptualize the interactions between wildfire and grazing in mountain and Wyoming big sagebrush communities. In some sage-grouse habitats, targeted livestock grazing may be useful for reducing fine fuels produced by annual grasses. We provide economic scenarios for ranches that delay spring turnout on public lands to increase herbaceous cover for nesting sage-grouse. Proper rangeland management is critical to reduce potential negative effects of livestock grazing to sage-grouse habitats.

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