SGI Introduces New Resources That Show Why Roots Matter in the Sage-Steppe

April 21, 2016

Promoting native plant health and diversity in the sagebrush sea benefits everyone

This thriving sagebrush landscape in the Centennial Valley of Mountain includes big sagebrush, Idaho fescue, and Indian paintbrush. Photo: Jeremy Roberts.

This thriving sagebrush landscape in Montana’s Centennial Valley includes big sagebrush, Idaho fescue, and Indian paintbrush. Photo: Jeremy Roberts, Conservation Media.

In the West’s sagebrush sea, most of the plant matter grows below your feet — just like an upside-down forest. The unique root systems of diverse plants in the sage-steppe protect our precious soils, help the land retain water, and support critical ecological functions. These roots pay dividends for current and future generations.

And the best part about roots? Promoting healthy and diverse native plant communities with strong root systems provides a buffer against extended droughts, large wildfires, and weed invasions, which can threaten both wildlife and rural ways of life.

conserve western roots postcard photo

This new sage-steppe roots postcard shows the hidden world beneath our feet.

To rekindle conversations about why roots matter, SGI developed two new visuals that give a glimpse of the hidden world beneath our feet. The new poster and postcard show the importance of taking care of our roots. Our accompanying roots webpage offers more resources explaining why roots matter, and how to take care of plant health and diversity, above and below ground.

A healthy sagebrush plant community includes shrubs like sagebrush, grasses like bluebunch wheatgrass, and forbs like lupine. These plants provide a wealth of benefits, such as: supporting wildlife, resisting weeds, rebounding from wildfire, building drought resilience, improving soil heath, and sustaining people across the West.

Since 2010, the Sage Grouse Initiative, led by the USDA-NRCS, has partnered with thousands of ranchers to conserve more than 5 million acres of the sagebrush sea. To help sage grouse, ranchers manage for healthy, abundant native plant communities. In turn, these management practices promote healthy roots, providing better feed for livestock and improving the soil below their hooves. Learn more about SGI conservation practices here.

The bottom line: everything is inter-connected on the sage-steppe. What’s good for the bird is not only good for the herd, it’s also good for the ground and the soil and water that sustain us all.

Visit SGI’s new ‘Roots’ webpage to learn more!

Read the USDA-NRCS blog about sage-steppe roots by Chief Jason Weller

Download the ‘Conserve Our Western Roots’ poster (18×24”)

Download the ‘Conserve Our Western Roots’ postcard (6×9″)

*To order print copies of the poster or postcard, please email 


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.