Greater Sage-grouse

The sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a large, rounded-winged, spike-tailed, ground-dwelling bird, about two feet tall and weighing from two to seven pounds. The birds are found at elevations ranging to 9,000 feet and are highly dependent on sagebrush for nesting, cover and feed.

A population of smaller birds, known in the U.S. as Gunnison Sage-Grouse, was recently recognized as a separate species.

Sagebrush steppe is home to a surprising abundance of flora and fauna that depend on this complex, fragile ecosystem. Sage-grouse are an indicator species for sagebrush habitats. Their continued decline is indication of human mismanagement of the landscape.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined greater sage-grouse was “warranted, but precluded” for protection under the Endangered Species Act in March 2010. Both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service list the sage-grouse as a “sensitive species” range-wide.

The sage- grouse current population is as low as 142,000. The current Range-wide abundance has decreased between 69-99 percent from historic levels.

Greater sage-grouse are adversely affected by energy development and infrastructure, even when mitigative measures are implemented. The species is affected by direct habitat loss, fragmentation of important seasonal habitats by roads, pipelines and power lines, and human and vehicle-related disturbance. The impacts of energy development often add to the effects of other land uses and development, resulting in marked declines in local sage-grouse populations.

It is predicted that continued energy exploration and development will increase over the next 20 years. Greater sage-grouse populations are predicted to decline 7 to 19 percent from the effects of oil and gas development in the eastern part of the range, continuing historic population declines range-wide.