Working Lands

Sagebrush Ecosystem

The Bottom Line

Conservation impact on 80 million U.S. acres; improved outcomes for three priority bird species.

The unbroken sagebrush country that provides crucial habitat for the Greater and Gunnison Sage-Grouse is one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes of the Rocky Mountain West. The sage encompasses approximately 120 million acres and stretches from eastern Washington to central Wyoming and down to northern New Mexico and Arizona. It is home to a plethora of species, including 297 species of birds, 87 species of mammals, and 63 fish species. This fertile but fragile landscape has been fragmented, degraded, and, in some areas, completely eliminated by many different human activities. By some accounts, the sagebrush steppe habitat has declined by 50 percent from its levels just a century ago.

Today the biggest threat to the sage ecosystem is energy development. That’s why the Audubon Rockies program, working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), state governments, and other stakeholders, has spurred the adoption of a game-changing strategy that balances wildlife protection with our nation’s need for energy. This science-based approach identifies the best places for wind farms and limits the footprint of oil and gas extraction while protecting core habitat areas for sage-grouse. As a result, 15 million acres of sage-grouse habitat in Wyoming is now protected, and the BLM has expanded this approach into Nevada, Utah, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and the Dakotas. Audubon’s pioneering work in one flyway can lead to successes in others; this strategy also holds great promise farther south for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken and the shortgrass prairie.

Theory of Victory: By focusing on the threatened conservation status of three species (Greater Sage-Grouse, Gunnison Sage-Grouse, and Lesser Prairie-Chicken), Audubon will ensure a sustainable future for the sage and prairie ecosystems and their wildlife.

Related News

Birds in the News

6 Ways to Help Sage-grouse Right Now

By Elizabeth Deatrick
September 22, 2015 — The Greater Sage-grouse won’t be listed under the Endangered Species Act, but that doesn’t mean important conservation opportunities aren’t ongoing.
Working Lands

The Greater Sage-Grouse Will Avoid 'Endangered' Status Due to Herculean Land Conservation Effort

By National Audubon Society
September 22, 2015 — Following Unprecedented Collaboration, Sagebrush Ecosystem Begins Path to Recovery
Birds in the News

Unprecedented Conservation Efforts Keep Greater Sage-Grouse Off Endangered Species List

By Alisa Opar
September 22, 2015 — After more than a decade of work, the collaborative approach to protecting the bird pays off.

As Sage-Grouse Decision Looms, West Holds Its Breath

By Tessa Stuart
September 03, 2015 — U.S. Fish and Wildlife will decide whether to list the bird by the end of September.

What’s Up With the Greater Sage-Grouse?

By Martha Harbison
May 29, 2015 — A definitive guide to the most talked-about bird in the West.
Press Room

Interior Announces Sage-Grouse Conservation Plans for Tens of Millions of Acres of the American West

By National Audubon Society
May 28, 2015 — Over 60 percent of key grouse habitat on federal lands will gain improved protections.

A Steppe Up for the Greater Sage-Grouse

By Emma Bryce
May 21, 2015 — A new PBS documentary explores the habitat that is vital for the survival of an iconic western bird.
Working Lands

This Week in Ornithology: Domed Nests, Flaky Prairie-Chickens, and More

By Jesse Greenspan
May 14, 2015 — Science shorts based on recently published research.

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