Dedicated Field Staff Make a Difference for Sage Grouse West-wide

August 5, 2015

Photo to the right by Tina Dennison — new members of the Strategic Watershed Action Team met in Montana for a training session in June.  From left: Mary Beth Albrechtsen (South Dakota); Connor White (Idaho); Kolten Hawkins (California); Mandi O’Donnell (Nevada); Logan Ross (Oregon); Donn Slusher (Colorado); Jeremy Maestas (NRCS-SGI); Briana Schnelle (California); Seth Gallagher (IWJV-SGI); Kourtney Stonehouse (Utah); Justin Hughes (Montana).

The Sage Grouse Initiative’s Strategic Watershed Action Team’s dedicated and enthusiastic range conservationists, wildlife biologists, and natural resource specialists put in place proactive conservation projects. These field staff also spread the shared vision of achieving wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching in the West.

Each quarter, SGI shares the latest accomplishments from our field partner positions, along with recent science and communications efforts.  The Intermountain West Joint Venture takes the lead in coordinating SGI’s Strategic Watershed Action Team, along with a detailed tracking system that documents field staff progress on a quarterly basis. These reports ensure SGI is a lasting conservation partnership that produces tangible results to improve sage grouse habitat across 11 western states.

Below are some of the incredible highlights from the SGI field staff and our partners, as documented in the April-June 2015 quarterly report:

  • Field staff help landowners put in place  rangeland practices that conserve sage grouse. Photo by Linda Poole.

    Field staff help landowners put in place rangeland practices that conserve sage grouse. Photo by Linda Poole.

    2,085,596 acres of rangeland improvement to increase sage grouse hiding cover during nesting season. Additional grass cover is expected to increase sage grouse populations by eight to ten percent.

  • 244,248 acres of conifer removal in key nesting, brood-rearing, and wintering habitats. Removing encroaching conifers from sagebrush rangelands eliminates tall structures in otherwise suitable habitat. As birds re-colonize former habitats, increased bird abundance is anticipated.
  • 192 miles of “high-risk” fence marked or removed near leks. Marking fences is expected to reduce sage grouse fence collisions by 83%.
  • 7 new staff hired to fill vacant or new positions since March. New hires attended a two-day orientation training in Montana to learn the technical tools for sage grouse conservation.
  • A new map completed for Oregon that shows tree canopy cover as part of the west-wide project to help prioritize conifer removal projects that protect sage grouse populations.
  • Several resources developed about the Bi-State sage grouse, and the USFWS’ landmark decision not to list the population in Nevada/California due to the success of an unprecedented conservation partnership.
  • A variety of reports, articles, and stories that feature partners and ranchers working on voluntary conservation projects that help the bird and the sagebrush sea.

 Read more results in the April-June quarterly report.

View past quarterly reports:

January-March 2015

October-December 2014

July-September 2014

April-June 2014

January-March 2014

October-December 2013

July-September 2013

April – June 2013

January – March 2013

October – December 2012

July – September 2012

April – June 2012

January – March 2012


The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.