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Use of LANDFIRE in Sage-Grouse Habitat Analysis: Western North America, 2007-2009

LANDFIRE National science writers

Background: Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are endemic to western North America and are an obligate species dependent on sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) across their range. This paper primarily focuses on the application of LANDFIRE data products in support of a broader analysis and study evaluating the ecology and conservation interactions for sage-grouse and sagebrush spatial patterns. The material in this paper uses information found in the publication “Greater Sage-Grouse: Ecology and conservation of a landscape species and its habitats” edited by Steve Knick and John Connelly which outlines the effort conducted with teams of research and management from agency, academic, and private expertise.

Management considerations: Habitats necessary to support sage-grouse are being burned by large wildfires, invaded by nonnative plants, and developed for energy resources (gas, oil, and wind). Management on public lands, which contain 70% of sagebrush habitats, has changed over the last 30 years from large sagebrush control projects directed at enhancing livestock grazing to a greater emphasis on projects that often attempt to improve or restore ecological integrity. Proximate reasons for population declines differ across the sage-grouse distribution, but ultimately, the underlying cause is loss of suitable sagebrush habitat. Maintaining landscapes dominated by sagebrush is a major challenge because changes in fire regimes, widespread invasion by non-native plants, and increases in destructive land use are likely to accelerate the trajectory of fragmentation and loss.