North-central Oregon. Photo Credit: Dan Meyers
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Sagebrush Science Initiative

The Sagebrush Science Initiative (SSI) is a collaborative effort originally between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and WAFWA to identify and fill the highest priority gaps in scientific knowledge needed to effectively conserve sagebrush dependent species and the sagebrush habitats they depend on. 

Sagebrush Science Initiative Projects

Two requests for proposals (RFPs) were issued in 2017 soliciting proposals for scientific research or analysis on sagebrush obligate or dependent species, and particularly those evaluating the degree to which sage-grouse conservation practices may serve as an umbrella for other species. View the request for proposal, round one (PDF, 440 KB) and request for proposal, round two (PDF, 150 KB).

Nine projects were approved for funding to provide information on a broad spectrum of taxa, from predictive models on distribution within sagebrush stands of reptiles and amphibians to documenting deer migration corridors and winter ranges across the west.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) provided funding to help fund research into the human dimensions of sagebrush conservation, and consequently a Sagebrush Conservation Social Science RFP (PDF, 40 KB) was released in late September, 2017.  Development of the RFP, and ultimately scoring and ranking of proposals, was a collaborative effort of scientists and managers from WAFWA, USFWS, BLM, United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the United States Forest Service (USFS). The RFP solicited proposals on science projects related to stakeholder engagement, economic aspects of sagebrush conservation, and other social aspects of sagebrush conservation. View the Summary Report (PDF, 601 KB).

  1. Build a decision support tool for pinyon-juniper removal: Maximizing benefits to sagebrush- and forest-obligate songbirds. Dr. Michael Falkowski, Colorado State University.
  2. Effects of cattle grazing on sagebrush-obligate and sagebrush-dependent birds. Dr. Courtney Conway, Idaho Coop. Unit.
  3. Pygmy rabbits under the sage-grouse umbrella: Assessment at range-wide and regional scales. Dr. Janet Rachlow, Univ. of Idaho.
  4. Evaluating biodiversity of sagebrush-dependent species within sage-grouse habitat: an example from the Wyoming Basin. Dr. Cameron Aldridge, CSU, USGS.
  5. The influence of climatic conditions on reproduction of sagebrush-dependent birds: Implications for climate vulnerability assessments and habitat prioritization efforts. Dr. Anna Chalfoun, Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit.
  6. Assessing the regional response of avian and small mammal sagebrush communities to pinyon and juniper removal. Dr. Kevin Shoemaker, Univ. of Nevada, Reno.
  7. Modeling species-habitat relationships, assessing threats, and prioritizing areas of conservation for lizards and snakes in sagebrush ecosystems. Dr. David Pilliod, USGS, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Boise.
  8. Identifying and prioritizing mule deer migration corridors and winter ranges across sagebrush ecosystems of the Western U.S. Dr. Matt Kauffman, USGS, Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit.
  9. Developing a multi-species decision support tool at a regional scale. Dr. Andrew Jakes, University of Montana.

Sagebrush Conservation Strategy

A key aspect of the Sagebrush Science Initiative is to use the biological and social science information produced through this Initiative, as well as the entire body of relevant science to produce a collaborative Sagebrush Conservation Strategy. 

The intent of the Strategy is to provide a roadmap for voluntary conservation measures for managing and conserving the sagebrush ecosystem that build on conservation measures already in place for sage-grouse.  The goal is to maintain dependent plant and animal communities as well as traditional human uses of this landscape.  It is intended to be an “all-hands, all-lands” inclusive approach. 

A conceptual narrative and draft outline for what this Sagebrush Conservation Strategy might look like was produced following a Workshop coordinated by WAFWA in Denver, attended by scientists and managers from BLM, USFWS, USFS, USGS, State Wildlife Agencies, Universities, and numerous NGOs with expertise in, or responsibility for sagebrush or sagebrush-dependent wildlife.