We found the predicted positive relationship between mesic habitat availability and sage-grouse productivity, but annual precipitation explained additional variation in productivity even after accounting for mesic habitat availability. Hence, precipitation and drought may drive sage-grouse productivity via more than one mechanism acting on multiple demographic rates. Productivity was also limited by exotic annual grass invasion and conifer encroachment. Mesic habitat availability was a function of topographic relief, mean elevation, annual mean snow water equivalent, and winter temperatures, indicating that snowpack recharges the late summer mesic resources that support sage-grouse productivity. Management actions focused on maintaining and restoring mesic resources and drought resilient habitats, limiting the spread of exotic annual grasses, and reversing conifer encroachment should support future sage-grouse recruitment and help mitigate the effects of climate change.
In 2006, we initiated fuel reduction treatments (prescribed fire, mowing, and herbicide applications [tebuthiuron and imazapic]) in six Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis communities. We evaluated long-term effects of these fuel treatments on: (1) magnitude and longevity of fuel reduction; (2) Greater sage-grouse habitat characteristics; and (3) ecological resilience and resistance to invasive annual grasses. Responses were analyzed using repeated-measures linear mixed models. Response variables included plant biomass, cover, density and height, distances between perennial plants, and exposed soil cover. Prescribed fire produced the greatest reduction in woody fuel over time. Mowing initially reduced woody biomass, which recovered by year 10. Tebuthiuron did not significantly reduce woody biomass compared to controls. All woody fuel treatments reduced sagebrush cover to below 15% (recommended minimum for Greater Sage-grouse habitat), but only prescribed fire reduced cover to below controls. Median mowed sagebrush height remained above the recommended 30 cm. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) cover increased to above the recommended maximum of 10% across all treatments and controls. Ecological resilience to woody fuel treatments was lowest with fire and greatest with mowing. Low resilience over the 10 posttreatment years was identified by: (1) poor perennial plant recovery posttreatment with sustained reductions in cover and density of some perennial plant species; (2) sustained reductions in lichen and moss cover; and (3) increases in cheatgrass cover. Although 10 years is insufficient to conclusively describe final ecological responses to fuel treatments, mowing woody fuels has the greatest potential to reduce woody fuel, minimize shrub mortality and soil disturbance, maintain lichens and mosses, and minimize long-term negative impacts on greater sage-grouse habitat. However, maintaining ecological resilience and resistance to invasion may be threatened by increases in cheatgrass cover, which are occurring regionally.
This “Sagebrush Conservation Strategy—Challenges to Sagebrush Conservation,” is an overview and assessment of the challenges facing land managers and landowners in conserving sagebrush ecosystems. This strategy is intended to provide guidance so that the unparalleled collaborative efforts to conserve the iconic greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by State and Federal agencies, Tribes, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and stakeholders can be expanded to the entire sagebrush biome to benefit the people and wildlife that depend on this ecosystem. This report is organized into 3 parts.
Part I. Importance of the Sagebrush Biome to People and Wildlife; Part II. Change Agents in the Sagebrush Biome—Extent, Impacts, and Effort to Address Them; and Part III. Current Conservation Paradigm and Other Conservation Needs for Sagebrush
The Oregon SageCon Partnership invites you to join us for our annual SageCon Summit event on November 2-3, 2022. We will meet in person in Burns, Oregon with a virtual option to join remotely for the first day.
- Connect local, state, and federal partners working toward resilient rangelands in southeastern Oregon and across the Great Basin.
- Share information, ideas and resources to leverage our collective knowledge, with an emphasis on strategies for addressing invasive annual grasses in our rangelands.
- Inspire action and support collaborative efforts in 2023 and beyond.
We investigated habitat selection by 28 male greater sage-grouse during each of 3 years after a 113,000-ha wildfire in a sagebrush steppe ecosystem in Idaho and Oregon. During the study period, seeding and herbicide treatments were applied for habitat restoration. We evaluated sage-grouse responses to vegetation and post-fire restoration treatments. Throughout the 3 years post-fire, sage-grouse avoided areas with high exotic annual grass cover but selected strongly for recovering sagebrush and moderately strongly for perennial grasses. By the third year post-fire, they preferred high-density sagebrush, especially in winter when sagebrush is the primary component of the sage-grouse diet. Sage-grouse preferred forb habitat immediately post-fire, especially in summer, but this selection preference was less strong in later years. They also selected areas that were intensively treated with herbicide and seeded with sagebrush, grasses, and forbs, although these responses varied with time since treatment.
Description: Effects of juniper encroachment and removal on multiple wildlife species in the Steens Mountains area and quantifying effects of grazing on sagebrush ecosystems and associated wildlife.
Presenter: Vanessa Schroeder is a faculty research assistant at Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center-Burns, which is in the heart of Oregons’s sagebrush country. She holds a master’s degree in Wildlife Science from OSU.
This Science for Resource Managers tool provides online, searchable access to multiple published annotated bibliographies on priority management topics for resource managers, currently focused primarily on issues relevant to lands in the western U.S.
View the brief.
Katherine Zeller, a research biologist with the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute housed within the Rocky Mountain Research Station, was part of a team of researchers who created a series of species distribution models to determine whether this concern was warranted. “What we wanted to know is how these conifer treatments might affect a greater suite of species,” she explains. “Not just the sage grouse but these other species of conservation concern.”
USGS will hold a Bi-State Sage-Grouse Science Symposium. This virtual symposium will highlight the research, science, and management tools that support sage-grouse monitoring and conservation efforts in the Bi-State area of California and Nevada. Pete Coates and Western Ecological Research Center staff members will present information on:
- Population trends for greater sage-grouse within the Bi-State DPS and across sage-grouse range
- Seasonal and life-stage mapping of sage-grouse habitat in the Bi-State DPS
- Sage-grouse response to wildfire
- Impacts of increases of feral horse and common raven populations on sage-grouse populations
- Lessons learned from sage-grouse translocation efforts
- A targeted annual warning system to inform adaptive management of sage-grouse populations
- Efficacy of conservation efforts to improve sage-grouse population performance within the Bi-State DPS