BEND—Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff want to work with private landowners who have sage-grouse on their land and are interested in helping to conserve the species. The greater sage-grouse, today reduced to a fraction of its historic range, is a conservation priority in the state. Dependent on sagebrush for survival, sage-grouse populations are jeopardized by the loss or degradation of key habitat due to development, wildfire, invasive weeds, juniper encroachment and some land management practices.
According to ODFW biologist Christian Hagen, the greater sage-grouse has declined dramatically in the West over the last 50 years. In Oregon, populations have declined overall, but since the 1980s numbers have remained more or less stable.
“The good news is that many Oregonians are interested in helping maintain healthy populations of sage-grouse, but more needs to be done. The bird is an icon of the American West and also an indicator of healthy native habitat,” said Hagen. “We are interested in working with private landowners in eastern Oregon who have sage grouse on their deeded or permitted land. There is support and some funding available for restoration work, as well as opportunities for volunteers to do good things for grouse.”
According to John O’Keeffe, an Adel-area rancher, who recently enhanced shrubland communities on his property through juniper removal to enhance grouse brood rearing, “This has proven to be a timely and valuable opportunity to make rangeland improvements that benefit both sage-grouse and cattle.”
To better understand the outcomes of this effort, ODFW is monitoring productivity of sage-grouse through a late summer survey to count the number of chicks produced per female.
Wannie Mackenzie, who ranches in both Baker and Malheur counties, recently completed a project with ODFW and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to enhance vegetation by balancing ecosystem management between livestock and grouse. “We were able to improve forage conditions for my cattle ranching operation as well as breeding habitats for grouse,” said Mackenzie.
As a follow-up, nearby leks—sage grouse breeding grounds—are being monitored to measure the outcome of the management actions on Mackenzie’s ranch.
Landowners and volunteers can help with a number of sagebrush habitat projects including juniper cutting and removal; invasive weed eradication; meadow and spring restoration projects; grazing management planning; and marking fences with anti-strike devices. Citizen scientists can also participate in annual species and habitat survey work. Contact Christian Hagen at an ODFW office in Bend at (541) 419-3661.
In 2005, ODFW established a conservation plan for sage-grouse to help maintain and enhance populations. The Oregon Conservation Strategy, a blueprint for wildlife conservation in the state, identifies the greater sage-grouse as a species in need of help and sagebrush habitat as a key native habitat.
Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Assessment and Strategy for Oregon: A Plan to Maintain and Enhance Populations and Habitat is available online at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/sagegrouse/
The Oregon Conservation Strategy is available online at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/conservationstrategy/
Find information on Oregon’s sagebrush habitat online (pdf) at, http://www.dfw.state.or.us/conservationstrategy/document_pdf/b-habitat_11.pdf