Reducing Cultivation of Grazing Lands Conserves Sage Grouse

July 13, 2015

(Photo to the right by Linda Poole: Sustainable grazing conserves sage grouse and our western way of life.)

Download this Science to Solutions article here.

In the northeast part of sage grouse range, 70% of the best habitat is privately owned-–and the single greatest threat in this region is cultivation of native sagebrush grazing lands. Scientists assessed lands in eastern Montana, the western Dakotas, and northeast Wyoming to evaluate the potential impacts to sage grouse if more land is converted from sagebrush to crops.

They found that 96% of active leks today are surrounded by less than 15% cropland, and that a 50% increase in cultivation would decrease the region’s populations by 5%. Scientists then found solutions by evaluating the roles of state and federal policies as well as conservation easements to mitigate risk to sage grouse. Together, the Sodsaver policy in the 2014 Farm Bill, proposed policies on state lands, and a $146 million investment in easements can reduce by 87% the bird losses that would have occurred without these conservation measures in place.

Maps resulting from this science are now helping partners maximize their return on investment by placing easements in landscapes where they help grouse the most.

Learn more by downloading the full PDF here, or by clicking on the image below.

reducing cultivation - science to solutions pic

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.