Sagebrush Conservation Design

Sagebrush Conservation Design

In late September, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, non-profit organizations, and universities released a report outlining a roadmap to address threats to the sagebrush ecosystem across the full extent of its 165-million-acre range. The report, A Sagebrush Conservation Design to Proactively Restore America’s Sagebrush Biome, used remote sensing data to assess sagebrush habitats across the range, assigning areas to categories (core sagebrush area, growth opportunity area, and other rangeland area) based on the status of sagebrush and perennial grasses. It also indexed threats to sagebrush habitats including invasive annual grasses, wildfire, conifer encroachment, climate change, and a range of other human modifications.

“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 focusing first on 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 habitat. 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 allows for targeted conservation and monitoring and helps managers and landowners focus finite resources on protecting functioning habitat,” said Anne Kinsinger, Associate Director for Ecosystems at the U.S. Geological Survey.

October 17, 2022