Conservation Measures to Restore and Protect Sage-Grouse Habitat

These Conservation Measures outline the ways that you can avoid harm to or improve habitat for the Sage-Grouse.

From March 1 to May 15 (when mating occurs on leks) take care to reduce or eliminate surface disturbances within .6 mile from an active lek. From March 15 to June 30 (nesting and brood-rearing season) it is important to avoid activity in nesting habitat, including grazing. Physical disturbances during these times can physically disturb birds and cause them to leave their leks or nests, which would result in mortality and decreased reproductive success.

For Non-Development Activities

Mark Fences

Sage-Grouse can collide with fences resulting in serious injury or death.

  • Avoid construction of new fences within .6 miles of occupied leks or riparian areas
  • Redesign fences using wood posts or buck and pole fences
  • Mark existing fences within .6 miles of active or occupied leks

Crop Management

A serious threat to Sage-Grouse habitat is the conversion of native sagebrush to cropland. Existing cropland or, if unavoidable, new cropland should be managed in a way that avoids disturbance to active leks and Sage-Grouse habitat.

  • Rotate crops and avoid haying during mating, nesting, and brood-rearing areas
  • Leave residual cover to increase hiding and nesting cover, especially during nesting and brood-rearing periods
  • Remove or modify structures to be neutral or beneficial to Sage-Grouse
  • Place new fences and management structures away from active leks
  • Work with an agency specialist to incorporate a drought management component into your management plan
  • Allow springs to be free-flowing in order to maintain wet riparian areas
  • Implement a Reduced Area & Application Treatment approach to insecticide use- avoid carbaryl/malathion

Range Management

Livestock grazing is widespread across the sagebrush ecosystem and can be detrimental to Sage-Grouse populations if done incorrectly. However, proper grazing management can be a critical tool for maintaining high quality Sage-Grouse habitat. NRCS Sage-Grouse Initiative Grazing practices should be followed. They include:

  • Rotating livestock to create a diversity of habitats
  • Changing seasons of use to allow for plant reproduction
  • Leaving residual cover to increase hiding and nesting cover, especially during nesting and brood-rearing periods
  • Managing the frequency and intensity of grazing to sustain native grasses, shrubs, and forbs
  • Managing livestock access to water to ensure healthy livestock and watersheds
  • Place salt or mineral supplements in sites minimizing impacts to habitat
  • Remove or modify range structures to be neutral or beneficial to Sage-Grouse, such as fitting water troughs with wildlife escape ramps
  • Allow springs to be free-flowing and avoid grazing/trampling in riparian areas
  • Implement a Reduced Area & Application Treatment approach to insecticide use- avoid carbaryl/malathion
  • Work with an agency specialist to incorporate a drought management component into your grazing plan

Fire Management

Fire, whether caused by humans or natural occurrences, destroys sagebrush habitat. Sagebrush takes decades to grow and is often pushed out by invasive and faster growing plant species after disturbances. In some cases fire is important for creating diverse habitat for Sage-Grouse, but care should be taken to ensure that sagebrush ecosystems are restored.

  • Prevent and avoid fire disturbances in active Sage-Grouse habitat
  • After fire plant native sagebrush and remove invasive species, such as Juniper, chetgrass and Japanese brome
  • Apply appropriate chemical and mechanical treatments to restore and preserve sagebrush
  • Contact a local professional to help you implement prescribed burns

Prescribed Fire As a Management Tool in Xeric Sagebrush Ecosystems

Invasive Plant Species

Woodland encroachment is one of the biggest threats to native sagebrush ecosystems. Invasive plants reduce or eliminate native forbs and grasses that are essential for Sage-Grouse food and cover. They also play a role in increasing fire frequency and damage.

  • Keep large sagebrush patches intact
  • Do not introduce non-native monocultures (crested wheatgrass), except non-persistent annual grasses for soil protection until native vegetation is established
  • Remove invasive species, such as Juniper, chetgrass and Japanese brome
  • Inter-seed range with native/beneficial seed mixes
  • Use state-certified weed free seed mixes and mulches
  • Use prescribed burns to create a normal fire pattern
  • Work with specialists to address and prevent chetgrass after wildfires and big game disturbances
  • Participate in weed control groups (such as Cooperative Weed Management Areas)
  • Contact an agency specialist to create a management plan that utilizes a mosaic pattern treatment

Predators

Ravens and birds of prey are considered threats to Sage-Grouse populations. It is important to remove structures that can be used as perches for predators in important Sage-Grouse areas.

  • Remove or locate fences, towers and power lines at least .6 miles from active leks
  • Remove or avoid locating new garbage and dead piles closer than .6 miles from occupied leks or within nesting or brood-rearing habitat
  • Limit access to leks or Sage-Grouse habitat by domestic pets
  • Install raptor perch deterrents on existing structures

Disease

Surface water developments, such as ponds, increase mosquito habitat, which results in increased Sage-Grouse mortality from the West Nile virus. Care should be taken to reduce habitat for mosquitos.

  • Build ponds with steep shorelines to reduce shallow water (install wildlife escape ramps if needed)
  • Increase the size of ponds and volume of water
  • Remove rooted vegetation
  • Fence pond sites to restrict access by livestock
  • Treat mosquito larvae in ponds with Bacillus thuringiensis or appropriate chemicals

For Development Activities

Roads

  • Locate roads in existing disturbed corridors or at least .6 miles from active leks and Sage-Grouse habitat
  • Close and rehabilitate duplicate or unnecessary roads
  • Reduce speed limits

Structures

  • Cluster disturbances at least .6 miles from leks and Sage-Grouse nesting and brood-rearing habitat
  • Place infrastructure in already disturbed locations
  • Bury power lines
  • Cover pits and tanks

Mitigation

Mitigation requires that impacts be avoided or minimized when possible and unavoidable impacts be compensated for in offsite locations. Some tools to consider for mitigation:

  • Conservation Easements: a conservation easement is a deeded restriction on the use of land. Landowners can sell or donate their development rights and set aside land for the conservation of Sage Grouse habitat with this tool.
  • Conservation Banking: a conservation bank is land that is conserved and permanently managed for endangered, threatened or candidate species and functions as an offset to adverse impacts to the species that occurs elsewhere. Landowners that place land in a conservation bank are compensated with habitat or species credits that can be sold to those who need to offset unavoidable impacts to Sage Grouse habitat.
  • Habitat Trading Credits: ecosystem credit markets are relatively new tools where landowners sell the ecosystem services conserved on their land (such as carbon, water quality, and habitat) as credits to industry and individuals wishing to offset or reduce their impact on natural systems. This market based approach to conserving Sage Grouse habitat could be in the form of habitat trading credits through state programs.