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Report: Sage Grouse Protections Benefit Many Species

A new report confirms that habitat protections for the greater sage grouse benefit other species as well. (Twildlife/iStockphoto)
A new report confirms that habitat protections for the greater sage grouse benefit other species as well. (Twildlife/iStockphoto)
November 9, 2016

CARSON CITY, Nev. - Protections for sage grouse have directly benefited multiple species that share the same habitat, according to a new report.

The study examined three songbirds whose populations have declined in the vast sagebrush sea that stretches across much of Nevada and 10 other Western states. Clare Bastable, senior director of public lands for the National Wildlife Federation, said the brewer sparrow, sagebrush sparrow and sage thrasher all thrive alongside the sage grouse in their territory, known as a lek.

"It found that songbirds are 13 to 19 percent more abundant near large leks," she said, "and the large leks support half of all known sage-grouse population."

The research was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Intermountain West Joint Venture and the Sage Grouse Initiative. Nevada is home to almost 14 percent of the known male population of sage grouse, and slightly more than 21 percent of existing sage-grouse habitat in the West.

Bastable noted that 350 other species also depend on sagebrush habitat.

"One of the things that we've been saying for a long time is, 'What's good for the bird is good for the herd,'" she said, "because so many other big-game species - such as mule deer, elk and pronghorn - depend as well on healthy sagebrush land."

In 2015, the feds decided not to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species, and conservation groups, state agencies and other stakeholders in the western states banded together to write the Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Plan to keep the birds off that list. Sage grouse face a number of threats in the West, including invasive species and energy development, which fragments their environment.

The report is online at sagegrouseinitiative.com.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV