What’s The Problem With Conifers?
Fires once kept native conifers from expanding into sagebrush-dominated, treeless country. In the last 150 years, junipers and pinyon pines have marched across rangeland, drying up precious streams and threatening sage grouse. Research shows that as little as 4% tree cover near a sage grouse breeding area causes the birds to abandon the lek.
In the Great Basin, conifers have expanded their range by 600 percent. If no action is taken to reverse the trend, 75% of the conifers will grow into large trees within the next 30-50 years, completely overtaking the native bunchgrasses and sagebrush that 350+ species of wildlife need to survive.
The Solution: Careful Prescriptions Based on Science
SGI dollars contribute to conifer removal projects where restoration payback will be greatest: areas with younger, low-density trees and an understory of grass and sagebrush. We focus projects in sage grouse strongholds on private lands or public lands where ranchers hold grazing leases.
Plus, SGI funds research on the impacts of removing conifers, including studies on sage grouse movement within treated landscapes, increased water availability post-conifer removal, and the benefits to other wildlife species like songbirds.
The Results: Restoring the Sagebrush Sea
Rangewide, we’ve removed 405,000 acres of encroaching conifer in core sage grouse habitat, reclaiming important range for wildlife and decreasing fuel for potential wildfires.
Cutting invasive trees on agricultural lands across the range earns a thumbs up from ranchers and conservation groups alike. Restoring our imperiled sagebrush-steppe is good for wildlife and keeps rangelands productive for livestock, too.
Read research and science on conifer removal
Map tree canopy cover near you using SGI’s Interactive Web App
Hear stories from the field about ranchers partnering to remove conifers
Learn more about conifer removal priorities in the SGI 2.0 Investment Strategy
Read about our Public Land Partnership with BLM to remove conifers