Science to Solutions: Conifer Removal Boosts Nest Success

In recent years the Sage Grouse Initiative, led by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, has worked with many partners to accelerate the mechanical removal of invading conifer trees, primarily junipers, to restore sagebrush habitats in and around sage grouse strongholds across the West. Replicated studies from public and private land in southern Oregon and northwest Utah are the first to document sage grouse response to this type of landscape-level habitat restoration effort. Despite conventional wisdom that female sage grouse use the same nesting areas every year, space-starved hens in Oregon were quick to use restored habitats made available by conifer removal: within four years, 29% of the tracked sage grouse were nesting within and near restored habitats. In Utah, 86% of hens avoided conifer invaded habitats, and those using restored habitats were more likely to raise a brood. Taken together, studies show that landscape-level conifer removal can effectively increase habitat availability and boost success for nesting and brooding sage grouse.

Find more details in the this Science to Solution study summary. This report is based on peer-reviewed research to be published in Rangeland Ecology & Management, the journal for the Society for Range Management. Learn more about the special issue of REM that evaluates woodland expansion and conifer removal in sagebrush and prairie ecosystems.

Interested in planning a sagebrush habitat restoration across your landscape? The Sage Grouse Initiative has a new web tool that maps tree canopy cover in high-resolution across sage grouse range, since removing expanding conifers is a primary focus of SGI’s conservation investment strategy. The map tool allows managers and planners to zoom in on a local site or scale up to a county or state. The raster data is free to download to your GIS for planning and conservation. Find this web tool here: