SGI Featured Friend | Pheasants Forever

June 9, 2015

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“Partnerships with private landowners are the key to delivering conservation results on the ground benefiting sage grouse and a host of other species in the West.” – Sam Lawry, Pheasants Forever 

Counting sage grouse from on high

In Douglas County, Washington, sage grouse are found in unexpected places. Spotting birds is tricky, too. The rolling topography makes it tough to locate leks where sage grouse congregate to mate.

Plus, unlike on the rest of their range, the birds in central Washington tend to court and mate in wheat fields rather than open sagebrush country. “The birds don’t follow the rules here, which makes it hard to figure out where they are,” explains Michael Brown, a Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) biologist in partnership with Pheasants Forever.

Luckily, Brown found a solution for this game of hide-and-seek. He worked with the Bureau of Land Management, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and SGI to conduct aerial surveys that search for sage grouse leks using infared technology.

Installing GPS backpacks on sage grouse helps scientists and resource managers track the birds movements.

In addition to aerial surveys, installing GPS backpacks on sage grouse helps scientists and resource managers track the birds in the field.

During late March 2015, Owyhee Air flew routes that covered 405,000 acres in just two weeks, neatly scouring hill and dale to count grouse.

These aerial surveys not only save time, they also save a ton of money,” says Brown.

Over 80% of Douglas County is private land, and the information provided by these surveys helps the area’s agricultural landowners apply for cost-share programs from state or federal grant programs.

Michael Brown, Range & Wildlife Conservationist with Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever, holding a sage grouse.

Michael Brown, Range & Wildlife Conservationist with Pheasants Forever, holds a sage grouse at sunrise.

Sam Lawry enjoying the Bitterroot River in Montana.

Sam Lawry, West Region Director of Pheasants Forever, enjoys the Bitterroot River in Montana.

Meet Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever is a national group with hundreds of local chapters across the U.S. and Canada that are dedicated to conserving pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education, and land management policies and programs.

Role With Sage Grouse Initiative:

Pheasants Forever provides key organizational support for the Sage Grouse Initiative, and administers eight SGI field staff partnership positions in South Dakota, Nevada, California, Idaho, and Washington. In addition, Pheasants Forever works closely with the Intermountain West Joint Venture to help manage SGI funds and contracts.


Sam Lawry, West Region Director, Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever

Contact: 406.552.5052

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FF - pheasants forever photo

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.