The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI)

Sagebrush. It’s an under-appreciated habitat that is essential for the Greater Sage-Grouse. Now more so than ever, this gangly bird is drawing attention as it is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. In 2010, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the Sage Grouse Initiative to strategically conserve sagebrush habitat. SGI focuses on conserving the habitat for sage grouse and other world-class wildlife populations through sustainable ranching.

Visit the Sage Grouse Initiative website.

The goal of SGI is to conserve sage-grouse populations through sustainable ranching in 11 Western states: California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Instead of trying to tackle all of the threats to the species in a massive land area, SGI partners are using a “conservation triage” approach.  To do so, they target activities in core areas to maintain large and intact grazing lands rather than provide palliative care to small and declining populations.

SGI targets Farm Bill resources to high sage-grouse abundance centers, or “core areas”, to maintain large and intact habitats rather than providing palliative care to small and declining populations.

SGI focuses on removing threats to sage grouse populations, which includes conifer encroachment, subdivision, tillage, inadequate nesting cover, and fence collisions, among others. Conservation practices include installing include using sustainable grazing systems to improve hiding cover for birds, marking or moving “high risk” fences near breeding sites to reduce bird collisions, and removing invasive conifers from sagebrush grasslands to allow re-colonization of otherwise suitable sage-grouse habitat.

The  speed  of  success  matches  the  scale:  700+  ranchers  enrolled;  investments  of  $145   million  generate  $70  million  in  matching  contributions;  conservation  easements   reduce  sodbusting  and  subdivision  threat  on  240,000+  acres;  new  grazing  systems   increase  hiding  cover  for  nesting  birds  on  2+  million  acres;  removal  of  invading   conifers  restores  historic  sagebrush  on  200,000  acres,  and  marking  or  removing  500+   miles  of  high-­risk  fences  prevent  bird  collisions. 

The IWJV is playing a key role in SGI implementation through a major five-year partnership known as the SGI Strategic Watershed Action Team (SWAT) that is helping NRCS build field delivery, science, communications, and partner capacity to deliver this innovative, landscape scale conservation initiative. 

For information on the SGI contact Tim Griffiths, NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative Coordinator. To learn more about the IWJV’s role through the SGI SWAT, contact Dave Smith, IWJV Coordinator. 

Visit the Sage Grouse Initiative website.