Category: Status Reports
Published: February 2016
Author(s): Derek W. Stinson
The Greater Sage-grouse historically was found throughout the shrub-steppe areas of eastern Washington. The species is now limited in distribution in the state to Douglas County, the Yakima Training Center, and two areas where reintroduction projects are re-establishing populations in Lincoln County and on the Yakama Indian Reservation. The 2015 state-wide population estimate based on lek counts was 1,004 birds.
The sage-grouse was state-listed as threatened in 1998, and a state recovery plan was completed in 2004. The Greater Sage-grouse Columbia Basin Distinct Population Segment (DPS) was a candidate for listing under the U. S. Endangered Species Act from 2001-2015. In September 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that the population in Washington did not meet the criteria for a DPS, and listing of the Greater Sage-grouse across its entire range was not warranted.
The potential of wildfires to eliminate sagebrush on extensive areas is perhaps the greatest immediate threat to sage-grouse in Washington. Uncertainty about the long-term maintenance of habitat that depends on voluntary Farm Bill programs (CRP/SAFE) is also a major concern. Other major management issues include habitat that is fragmented by roads, agriculture, and development and degraded by past wildfires, historical excessive livestock grazing, fencing, electrical transmission lines, and exotic vegetation. Sage-grouse may suffer mortality rates above historical levels as a result of collisions with fences, powerlines, and vehicles, and higher populations of some predators.
Numerous partners are working on recovery of sage-grouse in Washington. Without these efforts, the Greater Sage-grouse would likely decline to extinction in Washington. It is recommended the species remain state-listed as threatened.
Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.