Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) were once widespread within sagebrush-grassland ecosystems of western North America, but populations have declined since the mid-1960s (Schroeder et al. 2004, Garton et al. 2011). Sage-grouse were petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2010 and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) concluded that the species was ‘warranted but precluded’ from listing.  The USFWS indicated that the major threats to sage-grouse are habitat loss and the lack of regulatory mechanisms to prevent loss and fragmentation of habitat. Litigation followed and the USFWS made a listing determination in September 2015; greater sage-grouse was not listed as a threatened or endangered species.

Livestock grazing is the most extensive land use within sage-grouse habitat and the potential effects of livestock grazing on sage-grouse are of concern to land managers, ranchers, and conservationists. Reliable information about the effects of livestock grazing on sagebrush ecosystems and sage-grouse reproduction and survival are needed to make wise land management decisions.

In fall 2012, representatives from several agencies and organizations in Idaho joined together to draft a research plan to address this need. The research plan was designed to produce scientifically defensible information that could be used to inform grazing management decisions and to promote healthy sage-grouse populations. Spring (when sage-grouse are nesting and raising broods) is often considered the most crucial period for sage-grouse survival. Hence, our research plan is designed to evaluate whether different levels of spring cattle grazing affect sage-grouse. Many of the perceived effects of grazing on sage-grouse (positive or negative) are thought to be most pronounced during the spring when sage-grouse are nesting. We proposed a collaborative research project for a 10-year study to occur on nine study sites in Idaho aimed at identifying the effects of spring cattle grazing on demographic traits of greater sage-grouse, sage-grouse habitat characteristics, and wild-land fuel patterns.  View a one page Sage Grouse Prospectus for this project initiated in November in 2012.

We are currently preparing for our 7th year of data collection  in 2020! We have initiated grazing treatments at all 5 study sites with plans to continue work at our first 2 study sites (Browns Bench and Jim Sage) beyond their original 6 year period. We have compiled annual reports starting in 2015 that contain mostly preliminary and descriptive results. The results presented should not be used to draw conclusions on potential positive or negative effects of spring cattle grazing on greater sage-grouse because we do not yet have a large enough sample of experimental data to fully address this question.

Below are links to our annual reports:

2021 – 2021 Grouse & Grazing Annual Report

2020 – 2020 Grouse & Grazing Annual Report

2019 – 2019 Grouse & Grazing Annual Report

2018 – 2018 Grouse & Grazing Annual Report

2017 – 2017 Grouse & Grazing Annual Report

2016 – 2016 Grouse & Grazing Annual Report

2015 – 2015 Grouse & Grazing Annual Report