Sage-grouse Conservation


How to conserve sage-grouse in a human-dominated world?

Ecological Background:


The greater sage-grouse is a charismatic sage-brush obligate of the western U.S.  However, sage-grouse populations have declined throughout their range due to long-term habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Urban development, livestock grazing, habitat conversion to agricultural production, and invasive species have all been identified as potential factors in the species declines.

Our Study System: 

Utah’s unique topography creates discontinuous habitat.  As such, sage-grouse populations are typically small and isolated.  To manage sage-grouse throughout the state, we work with our partners from the state and federal agencies, nongovernmental groups, and private landowners to continue our conservation efforts.  This is largely done within the state’s 11 Sage-Grouse Management Areas (SGMAs).  These SGMAs encompass the highest sage-grouse breeding density areas, which together support > 90% of Utah’s sage-grouse population.

What We Found:


We are working on numerous applied research projects state-wide and throughout the region to better manage and conserve the species.  These include:

  1. Seasonal habitat mapping of sage-grouse
  2. Effects of cattle grazing on sage-grouse reproduction and space-use
  3. Prioritizing sage-grouse translocation sites
  4. Quantifying the effects of conifer removal on sage-grouse space use and demography
  5. Quantifying the role of anthropogenic factors on sage-grouse space and vital rates

Relevant publications:

Picardi, S., T. A. Messmer, B. A. Crabb, M. T. Kohl, D. K. Dahlgren, S. N. Frey, R. T. Larsen, and R. J. Baxter. [2020]. Predicting greater sage-grouse habitat selection at the southern periphery of their range. Ecology and Evolution 10:13451-13463.

Stoner, D. C., T. A. Messmer, R. T. Larsen, S. N. Frey, M. T. Kohl, E. T. Thacker, and D. K. Dahlgren. [2020]. Using satellite-derived estimates of plant phenological rhythms to predict sage-grouse nesting chronology. Ecology and Evolution 10:11169-11182.

Dahlgren, D. K., T. A. Messmer, B. A. Crabb, M. T. Kohl., S. N. Frey, E. Thacker, R. T. Larsen, and R. J. Baxter. [2019]. Sage‐Grouse Breeding and Late Brood‐Rearing Habitat Guidelines in Utah. Wildlife Society Bulletin 43:576–589.

Kohl, M. T., T. A. Messmer, B. A. Crabb, M. R. Guttery, D. K. Dahlgren, R. T. Larsen, S. N. Frey, S. Liguori, R. J. Baxter. [2019]. The effects of electric power lines on the breeding ecology of greater sage-grouse. PLOS ONE 14(1): e0209968.

Sandford, P. C., M. T. Kohl, T. A. Messmer, D. K. Dahlgren, A. Cook, and B. R. Wing. [2017]. Greater sage-grouse resource selection drives reproductive fitness in conifer removal system. Journal of Rangeland Ecology and Management 70:59-67.

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