Important Bird Areas

Powder/Carbon Sage-steppe

Montana

The Powder/Carbon Sage-steppe IBA in the southeastern corner of Montana covers high-quality sagebrush shrub-steppe and prairie grasslands that support a significant population of Greater Sage-Grouse. The area is typified by rolling sagebrush prairies, interspersed with flat-topped grassy buttes, alkali flats, and stream corridors. Sparsely populated and with a declining human population, the region is primarily cattle and sheep ranching country, with a small amount of dryland agriculture and bentonite mining.

For IBA map, click here.

Ornithological Summary

This area contains the densest population of Greater Sage-Grouse in southeastern Montana. It contains significant native shrubsteppe and prairie grassland habitat, largely in healthy condition. The IBA area covers at least 100 lek sites (11% of the surveyed leks in the state) and more than 2,200 male sage-grouse surveyed at lek sites (10.5% of the male sage grouse population in the state).

Conservation Issues

The primary threats to native shrub-steppe habitat in the IBA is the fragmentation and loss of sagebrush to farming and rangeland management, including plowing, and sagebrush eradication through burning and spraying. There is some existing bentonite mining in the region on the edge of the sagebrush areas. Secondary threats include the future potential for energy development and current leases for energy exploration, including coal-bed methane and uranium. West Nile virus is also a concern for population viability of sage-grouse in the area.

Ownership

The land ownership is primarily private agricultural lands and Bureau of Land Management rangelands, mixed with a small amount of state and tribal land.

Habitat

The area is dominated by sagebrush shrub-steppe and prairie grasslands, mixed with badlands and salt flats. There is a small amount of cropland agriculture, upland forests and riparian habitat.