New USFWS Collaboration Expands Science Tools To Sage-Steppe

April 10, 2017

Photos courtesy of Tatiana Gettelman, Swickard Family of Five Dot Ranch, and David Naugle of SGI.

Partnerships are the key to successful, science-based outcomes across the large sagebrush landscape

Working together with a diverse spectrum of public and private partners, the NRCS-led Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) prioritizes collaboration in our proactive, locally-led efforts to conserve the vast sagebrush rangelands in the American West.

Since our inception in 2010, SGI has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to deliver conservation assistance on private agricultural lands across the 11-state range of sage grouse. The USFWS Partners for Fish& Wildlife program provides cost-share for field staff who provide technical, on-the-ground support for ranchers on a variety of practices that benefit both working lands and wildlife habitat.

Jason Tack will work for USFWS' as a biologist with HAPET, expanding conservation support tools into the sage-steppe ecosystem.

Jason Tack will work as a biologist with HAPET, developing spatial planning tools to support sagebrush conservation in partnership with SGI.

Now we’re proud to announce an expanded collaboration with the USFWS that will help guide the actionable science that informs SGI’s on-the-ground conservation work. SGI researcher Jason Tack recently began a new position with the USFWS Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (HAPET). With 17 biologists and technicians located in Minnesota, Kansas, Montana, and North Dakota, HAPET develops decision-support tools for guiding waterfowl conservation across the Prairie Pothole Region, and has recently expanded to include science tools for other migratory birds and pollinators.

“Jason is a great asset as we expand our conservation delivery tools into the sage-steppe ecosystem,” says Rocky Pritchert, Chief of HAPET. He explains that Tack is the first HAPET biologist located in and focusing on the sagebrush landscape. The services HAPET provides to it’s many partners include: mapping conservation easements; spatial modeling that relates bird populations to their habitats; assisting in regional conservation planning and landscape design; and assessing the impacts of habitat management on bird populations.

“The sage-steppe is a priority landscape for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s a landscape under pressure. Like in the prairie pothole region, we recognize that conserving private lands is a key piece, both for maintaining livelihoods and habitat,” says Pritchert.

This map made by Jason Tack depicts his GPS telemetry research, which shows multiple braided pathways across the landscape as grouse migrated between Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana.

This map made by Jason Tack depicts GPS telemetry research that shows multiple pathways used by grouse migrating between Saskatchewan and Montana.

Tack’s previous research for SGI includes identifying long-distance international migratory pathways for sage grouse between Montana and Canada, and documenting the benefits to migratory songbirds from sage grouse conservation. Through his new partnership position, located in the Wildlife Biology Program department at the University of Montana in Missoula, Tack will work for HAPET developing spatial planning tools to support sagebrush conservation in partnership with SGI and Intermountain West Joint Venture.

“I feel very fortunate to work with these cutting-edge teams,” says Tack. “HAPET has been at the forefront of large-scale conservation planning for migratory species in the prairie pothole region, and their model makes for a perfect partnership with SGI in developing actionable science that benefits sagebrush country.”

Thanks to partners like the USFWS, the outlook is brighter for maintaining intact, healthy sagebrush habitat for 350+ species and the hundreds of communities that depend on it.

Read Jason Tack’s research in recent SGI Science to Solutions: 

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.