Service Learning For Sage Grouse | University Students Deliver Results in California

August 10, 2015

All photos by Jeff Hunter. To the right: BLM botanist Martin Oliver and California Native Plant Society botanist Julie Anne Hopkins work with university students on identifying endemic plants in a proposed conifer treatment area in the Bodie Hills of California.

On the eastern edge of the beautiful Sierra Nevada range in California, one of the Sage Grouse Initiative’s partners, the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership, is working with a variety of public and private landowners to improve habitat for sage grouse.

The area on the state line between California and Nevada is home to a special breed of grouse known as the Bi-State Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of greater sage-grouse. In April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its landmark decision not to list the Bi-State population under the Endangered Species Act, due in large part to the impressive results of proactive partnerships in the region.

One example of how conservation partnerships bring people together to protect sage grouse and their unique habitat is the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership’s summer field intensive program. During two weeks in July, two dozen university students pursuing careers in natural resource conservationparticipated in a service-learning project that had big benefits for birds, the participants, and sagebrush habitat in eastern California.

A student from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo gives telemetry a try, as experts from the BLM Bishop Field office provide some tips.

A student from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo gives telemetry a try while experts from the BLM Bishop Field office provide some tips.

Jeff Hunter, director of the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership, wrote the following summary about the students’ work in the field last month:

Thanks to many project partners who made this experience possible, we were able to hit the sweet spot at the intersection of education, fun and productivity. The students delivered the following on-the-ground results:

  • Removed .9 miles of top-wire from fences near sage grouse leks on BLM and county land.
  • Built a sheep exclosure and removed invasive species on Conway Ranch.
  • Marked 5 miles of fencing with fence markers in critical grouse habitat in the Toiyabe National Forest.
  • Removed invading pinon pine and juniper from 120 acres of private and public land.
  • Learned a variety of skills from dozens of regional experts, including radio telemetry, GPS/GIS, compass use, field research methods, and sage conservation strategies.
  • Removed more than 14,000 invasive forbs in a previously burned area.
  • BLM Wildlife Biologist Sherri Lisius assists a grad student from California State University, Chico as they lop pinon pine on private land in the Bodie Hills.

    BLM Wildlife Biologist Sherri Lisius assists a grad student from California State University Chico as they remove pinon pine on private land in the Bodie Hills.

    Identified rare plants in a proposed conifer treatment area.

“The Sage Grouse Restoration Project was an awesome hands-on and gratifying experience. It is the best to see many different agencies and private landowners coming together to improve the chances of survival for the sage grouse.” – Laura Heather Yu, UCLA

“My week with the Bodie Hills program was fantastic. It’s rare that we are given these opportunities to do really good things with really good people.” – Amber Overholser, Doctoral Candidate at UNLV

“The two weeks with the students was a highlight of the year for me. We learned, laughed, built community, and accomplished a great deal out on the landscape. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.” – Jeff Hunter, Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership


BodieHills_Logo_FINAL_OLRead SGI’s ‘Featured Friend’ story: Bishop Field Office of the BLM

Contact Jeff Hunter for more information

Learn about the Bi-State sage grouse

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.