Sagebrush Landscape Planning

Sagebrush habitats and associated wildlife species are in peril, with millions of acres lost in the last decade due to human activities and shifts in disturbance regimes (i.e., fire).  In addition to sage grouse, other bird and wildlife species depend on a healthy sagebrush ecosystem including species of greatest conservation need. Migratory songbirds include Brewer’s Sparrow, Sagebrush Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, and Sage Thrasher. Other wildlife species that call the sagebrush home include mule deer, pronghorn, pygmy rabbits, sagebrush voles, and sagebrush lizards.

Mule deer are a sagebrush obligate species throughout much of the West.

Sage obligate songbirds are heavily dependent on the vegetation structure and species composition of the sagebrush habitats and respond quickly to changes to these habitat features. Moreover, songbird species may respond to improved conditions in sagebrush habitats more quickly than the sage grouse because they have a higher reproductive potential, are short-lived, are more mobile, and are somewhat more flexible in their nesting requirements. These species are also indicators of sagebrush habitat condition and can be used to gauge the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Resource agencies, conservation groups, agricultural producers, and industry representatives are working proactively and cooperatively to conserve sagebrush birds, other wildlife, and the habitats on which they depend, finding win-win solutions for wildlife and working lands.

Sagebrush Landscape Planning

An important focus now and into the future will be utilizing the latest science and decision support tools to invest strategically in the right places with the right actions to benefit wildlife and local communities. Several spatial planning tools and management resources exist to identify beneficial conditions for sage obligate species, practices to improve these conditions, and the best places to undertake sagebrush conservation activities. Tools also exist to aid in performance monitoring, which provides real-time information to land managers, partner biologists, and landowners about the results of their conservation activities.

We have compiled some of these tools below:  

1) Decision Support Tools for Sage Grouse: The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) directly and indirectly supports science efforts to inform mapping products, decision-support tools, and outcome-based evaluations that enable better targeting of resources and allow for adaptive management for sage grouse and sage obligate species. Click these links to find information on the following topics:

2) Outcomes-based Monitoring for Sage Obligate Birds: The IWJV and its partners have been investing in science to better understand how sage grouse habitat restoration efforts benefit sage obligate birds.

3) Habitat and Populations Scenarios (HABPOPS): The IWJV invested in this tool as part of the IWJV 2013 Implementation Plan to calculate the effects habitat management activities will have on sage obligate (and grassland) birds. See HABPOPS tool page here.

We also announce webinars and trainings related to these tools, as they are available (see IWJV News).

Additional spatial planning and other resources exist that may be useful in guiding decisions related to planning and evaluating outcomes of management for sage obligate bird species, although they are not specific to these bird species.  Many of these tools and resources are archived on the SageMap and SageStep websites. Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a number of key resources to inform partners about ways to conserve the sage-steppe ecosystem.