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Ecosystems - Greater Sage-Grouse and Sagebrush Steppe

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Greater Sage-Grouse and Sagebrush Steppe

The sagebrush steppe ecosystem covers about 120 million acres and extends across 11 Western states and 2 Canadian provinces and over 60% of the ecosystem is located on public land. This ecosystem provides significant ecological, cultural, economic, and recreational resources for the Nation. In recent decades the sagebrush steppe ecosystem has received increasing attention due to declines in greater sage-grouse populations and multiple petitions for listing the species under the Endangered Species Act. In addition to the greater sage-grouse, more than 350 other wildlife species depend on sagebrush steppe for all or part of their life requirements. 

Conservation and restoration of the sagebrush steppe ecosystem is a major challenge. There are numerous threats to the ecosystem including increasing risk of wildfire, invasion by exotic annual grasses, expansion of conifer trees, development for agricultural use and energy extraction, and many other natural and human caused disturbances. Restoration of sagebrush steppe habitat following a disturbance is complicated by moisture availability and the length of time required for the vegetation community to recover. To meet this conservation challenge, it is critical that land management is guided by the best available science so that actions are effective and located in the places where they can have the best overall outcome.

USGS has been a leader in sagebrush steppe ecosystem research and continues to meet the priority science needs of management agencies.  We bring a diversity of expertise and capabilities to address a wide variety of science needs at multiple spatial scales and are committed to provide high quality science to our management partners.

For more information about USGS sage-grouse and sagebrush steppe research programs, contact:

Steve Hanser
(703) 648-4054


In the News

Livestock grazing effects on sage-grouse: study identifies options to sustain ranching and help wildlife

Effects of livestock grazing on greater sage-grouse populations can be positive or negative depending on the amount of grazing and when grazing occurs, according to research published today in Ecological Applications. The research was conducted by scientists from the United States Geological Survey, Colorado State University and Utah State University.

The study, Patterns in Greater Sage-Grouse Population Dynamics Correspond with Public Grazing Records at Broad Scales, is published in Ecological Applications, and is authored by Adrian P. Monroe, CSU, in cooperation with USGS; Cameron L. Aldridge, CSU, in cooperation with USGS; Timothy J. Assal, USGS; Kari E. Veblen, Utah State University; David A. Pyke, USGS; and Michael L. Casazza, USGS.

USGS Assesses Mineral Potential for Sagebrush Habitats in Six Western States

USGS has completed a comprehensive assessment and inventory of potential mineral resources covering approximately 10 million acres of Federal and adjacent lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. The assessment, conducted at the request of the Bureau of Land Management, ranked the mineral potential in select areas of these states along a gradient of no potential, low potential, moderate potential, and high potential.

The 10 million acres align with seven areas termed Sagebrush Focal Areas, identified by the Department of the Interior as important landscape blocks with high breeding population densities of sage-grouse and existing high quality sagebrush. The areas are all federally managed. The inclusion of private or other lands in the assessment has no implications regarding land values, management alternatives or recommendations for disposition. Native American lands were excluded from the study.


Sage-Grouse Biology


Habitat Management

USGS scientists are studying sage-grouse populations and gathering information to help understand sage-grouse life-history attributes.

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Across the extent of the sagebrush steppe ecosystem, USGS scientists are studying sagebrush steppe ecosystem components to help understand management actions that can best improve habitat conditions.

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Change Agents

Decision Analysis

USGS scientists are studying the effects of natural and human-caused changes to sage-grouse and sagebrush steppe ecosystem attributes.

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USGS scientists are developing tools to support stakeholder decisions.

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Lead Scientists

Additional Resources and related links.

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USGS principal investigators working on sage-grouse or sagebrush steppe ecosystem issues.

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Science Centers



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Page Last Modified: Thursday March 23 2017