Grouse and Grazing: Effects of Spring Grazing on Sage-Grouse Populations
Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) were once widespread within sagebrush-grassland ecosystems of western North America, but populations have declined since the mid-1960s. Sage-grouse were petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) concluded in 2015 that listing this species was not warranted, due in part to the comprehensive and unprecedented conservation measures that have been initiated to conserve the species and its habitat. The USFWS findings indicated that the major threats to sage-grouse are habitat loss and the lack of regulatory mechanisms to prevent loss and fragmentation of habitat.
Grazing is the most extensive land use within sage-grouse habitat and the effects of spring livestock grazing on sage-grouse are often debated. Some people view livestock as a significant threat to sage-grouse. Others argue that spring livestock grazing may have a large-scale positive impact on sage-grouse because spring grazing may reduce fuel loads and result in fewer and smaller wildfires. No empirical data are available to assess either claim.
Rangeland Center members and collaborators have initiated this scientific research project to examine the effects of spring grazing on: 1) demographic traits of greater sage-grouse; and 2) sage-grouse habitat characteristics, fuel loads and wildfire behavior. The study was initiated in 2012 and is expected to occur on 8 to 10 sites across Idaho over the next 10 years.
A team approach will involve collaboration among a diverse set of individuals and organizations, including experts in sage-grouse ecology, grazing management, fire behavior, and rangeland ecology. Current team members include representatives from the University of Idaho, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Conservation League and Eastern Idaho Grazing Association.
Output & Outcomes:
- Currently conducting research throughout Idaho
- Updates available at: http://idahogrousegrazing.wordpress.com
- Spring Grazing and Sage-Grouse Research Update - Winter 2015
Rangeland Center Members Involved:
- Courtney Conway – Fish and Wildlife Sciences, Idaho Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit
- Karen Launchbaugh – Forest, Rangeland, and Fire Sciences
- Eva Strand – Forest, Rangeland, and Fire Sciences