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Conservation of Greater Sage-Grouse: A Synthesis of Current Trends and Future Management

Category: Wildlife Research and Management - Wildlife Research

Date Published: March 01, 2011

Number of Pages: 15

Author(s): J. W. Connelly, S. T. Knick, C. E. Braun, W. L. Baker, E. A. Beever, T. Christiansen, K. E. Doherty, E. O. Garton, S. E. Hanser, D. H. Johnson, M. Leu, R. F. Miller, D. E. Naugle, S. J. Oyler-McCance, D. A. Pyke, K. P. Reese, M. A. Schroeder, S. J. Stiver, B. L. Walker, and M. J. Wisdom

Recent analyses of Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) populations indicate substantial declines in many areas but relatively stable populations in other portions of the species’ range. Sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) habitats necessary to support sage-grouse are being burned by large wildfires, invaded by nonnative plants, and developed for energy resources (gas, oil, and wind). Management on public lands, which contain 70% of sagebrush habitats, has changed over the last 30 years from large sagebrush control projects directed at enhancing livestock grazing to a greater emphasis on projects that often attempt to improve or restore ecological integrity. Nevertheless, the mandate to manage public lands to provide traditional consumptive uses as well as recreation and wilderness values is not likely to change in the near future. Consequently, demand and use of resources contained in sagebrush landscapes plus the associated infrastructure to support increasing human populations in the western United States will continue to challenge efforts to conserve Greater Sage-Grouse. The continued widespread distribution of sage-grouse, albeit at very low densities in some areas, coupled with large areas of important sagebrush habitat that are relatively unaffected by the human footprint, suggest that Greater Sage-Grouse populations may be able to persist into the future. We summarize the status of sage-grouse populations and habitats, provide a synthesis of major threats and challenges to conservation of sage-grouse, and suggest a roadmap to attaining conservation goals.