Sagebrush, home to more than 350 species of conservation concern, is being threatened and degraded by invasive annual grasses, wildfire, expanding conifers, climate change and human development. Photo: Nick Sulzer // Buckrail

WYOMING – According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a report was published today by a team of scientists from a dozen organizations that provides a product designed to boost efforts by land and wildlife managers to restore and conserve the sagebrush ecosystem across the full extent of its range, which covers more than 165 million acres. 

The report’s approach, known as the Sagebrush Conservation Design, provides a roadmap for addressing threats to sagebrush by facilitating conversations that enable stakeholders to work together. The sheer size of rangeland the new design covers – 13 western states – is unmatched to date by previous efforts. 

To develop this report, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies brought together 21 leading scientists with diverse backgrounds and expertise from 12 different federal and state agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations.

“We are committed to working with stakeholders to find solutions that improve habitat, stop the decline, and help people maintain quality of life and livelihoods,” said Tony Wasley, Director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and Chair of the WAFWA Sagebrush Executive Oversight Committee. “Implementing a strategic, landscape-scale approach will require an unprecedented degree of collaboration. The Sagebrush Conservation Design gives us the tools we need to do exactly that.”

The design calls for a ‘Defend and Grow the Core’ approach, flipping the script by focusing first on these intact Core Sagebrush Areas that are of immediate high value to wildlife, and then growing them by working outward to more degraded areas rather than addressing the worst areas first. Core areas have the potential to provide anchor points and are most likely to maintain their condition as high-quality habitats. These are supplemented by Growth Opportunity Areas, which provide opportunities for improving habitat, but are lower priority given the presence of landscape-scale threats where restoration investments may be necessary.

“The Sagebrush Conservation Design provides a framework for engaging in collaborative conservation on a landscape scale,” stated Matt Hogan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director for the Mountain-Prairie Region. “It not only provides a roadmap for conservation but will facilitate conversations about shared goals and values among a wide array of stakeholders so that we can work collectively to achieve conservation success.”

The Open File Report, “A Sagebrush Conservation Design to Proactively Restore America’s Sagebrush Biome,” is now available on the U.S. Geological Survey website.

Buckrail @ Toby

Toby Koekkoek is a Community News Reporter, and a recent resident of Teton Valley. He enjoys writing about our region's community events and the movers and shakers that make up the culture of this unique mountain town. He enjoys deep powder, and deep thoughts, skateboarding, playing racquet sports, riding his bike, and nerding out on music. Toby also coaches freeride skiing for the Jackson Hole Ski Club and runs skateboard camps in the summer.