Bureau of Land Management to Implement Sagebrush Restoration on 600,000 Acres in Idaho

Bureau of Land Management to Implement Sagebrush Restoration on 600,000 Acres in Idaho

On May 31, the Bureau of Land Management announced that it had signed the Record of Decision authorizing the removal of encroaching juniper on more than 600,000 acres within the Bruneau-Owyhee Sage-grouse Habitat Project in southwestern Idaho. Junipers have been increasing in sage-steppe habitats across the West. While native, high densities of the trees impact the landscape because they outcompete the sagebrush, grasses and forbs for water, nutrients, space and sunlight within the system. In addition, junipers provide perching opportunities for avian predators and research determined that sage-grouse abandon lek sites when there is more than 4 percent cover by junipers within two-thirds of a mile of a lek.

“Junipers are such significant invasive plants that even small amounts of them cause sage-grouse to avoid and abandon habitat,” said Virgil Moore, Director of Idaho Fish and Game. “Juniper removal is an effective conservation practice that results in sage-grouse reoccupancy of treated rangelands. This project on these iconic western lands of Idaho’s Owyhee County is possible because of the strong partnerships forged through collaboration over the past decade with the people who use these working landscapes and desire proper management and conservation to benefit sage-grouse.”

The 15-year project in Idaho will target encroaching junipers on 617,000 acres within the 1.67 million acres of sagebrush habitat in Owyhee County. The project area was determined based on sage-grouse distribution and proximity to leks. Removal will target areas with less than 20 percent canopy cover of juniper to focus on areas in the early stages of juniper encroachment. No juniper will be cut within designated wilderness areas or lands with wilderness characteristics and no old-growth trees will be removed. The improved sagebrush landscape will benefit sage-grouse as well as a number of other species like mule deer, elk, pronghorn and other species that depend on the sage-steppe habitat.

“This vital landscape project demonstrates the Department of the Interior’s commitment to shared conservation stewardship through collaboration with our state partners,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Working together on projects like this enhances conditions on our public lands for wildlife, ranching and recreation.”

June 14, 2018