Conservation Measures to Restore and Protect Sage-Grouse Habitat

These Conservation Measures outline the ways that you can avoid harm to or improve habitat for the Sage-Grouse.

From March 1 to May 15 (when mating occurs on leks) take care to reduce or eliminate surface disturbances within .6 mile from an active lek. From March 15 to June 30 (nesting and brood-rearing season) it is important to avoid activity in nesting habitat, including grazing. Physical disturbances during these times can physically disturb birds and cause them to leave their leks or nests, which would result in mortality and decreased reproductive success.

For Non-Development Activities

Mark Fences

Sage-Grouse can collide with fences resulting in serious injury or death.

  • Avoid construction of new fences within .6 miles of occupied leks or riparian areas
  • Redesign fences using wood posts or buck and pole fences
  • Mark existing fences within .6 miles of active or occupied leks

Crop Management

A serious threat to Sage-Grouse habitat is the conversion of native sagebrush to cropland. Existing cropland or, if unavoidable, new cropland should be managed in a way that avoids disturbance to active leks and Sage-Grouse habitat.

  • Rotate crops and avoid haying during mating, nesting, and brood-rearing areas
  • Leave residual cover to increase hiding and nesting cover, especially during nesting and brood-rearing periods
  • Remove or modify structures to be neutral or beneficial to Sage-Grouse
  • Place new fences and management structures away from active leks
  • Work with an agency specialist to incorporate a drought management component into your management plan
  • Allow springs to be free-flowing in order to maintain wet riparian areas
  • Implement a Reduced Area & Application Treatment approach to insecticide use- avoid carbaryl/malathion

Range Management

Livestock grazing is widespread across the sagebrush ecosystem and can be detrimental to Sage-Grouse populations if done incorrectly. However, proper grazing management can be a critical tool for maintaining high quality Sage-Grouse habitat. NRCS Sage-Grouse Initiative Grazing practices should be followed. They include:

  • Rotating livestock to create a diversity of habitats
  • Changing seasons of use to allow for plant reproduction
  • Leaving residual cover to increase hiding and nesting cover, especially during nesting and brood-rearing periods
  • Managing the frequency and intensity of grazing to sustain native grasses, shrubs, and forbs
  • Managing livestock access to water to ensure healthy livestock and watersheds
  • Place salt or mineral supplements in sites minimizing impacts to habitat
  • Remove or modify range structures to be neutral or beneficial to Sage-Grouse, such as fitting water troughs with wildlife escape ramps
  • Allow springs to be free-flowing and avoid grazing/trampling in riparian areas
  • Implement a Reduced Area & Application Treatment approach to insecticide use- avoid carbaryl/malathion
  • Work with an agency specialist to incorporate a drought management component into your grazing plan

Fire Management

Fire, whether caused by humans or natural occurrences, destroys sagebrush habitat. Sagebrush takes decades to grow and is often pushed out by invasive and faster growing plant species after disturbances. In some cases fire is important for creating diverse habitat for Sage-Grouse, but care should be taken to ensure that sagebrush ecosystems are restored.

  • Prevent and avoid fire disturbances in active Sage-Grouse habitat
  • After fire plant native sagebrush and remove invasive species, such as Juniper, chetgrass and Japanese brome
  • Apply appropriate chemical and mechanical treatments to restore and preserve sagebrush
  • Contact a local professional to help you implement prescribed burns

Prescribed Fire As a Management Tool in Xeric Sagebrush Ecosystems

Invasive Plant Species

Woodland encroachment is one of the biggest threats to native sagebrush ecosystems. Invasive plants reduce or eliminate native forbs and grasses that are essential for Sage-Grouse food and cover. They also play a role in increasing fire frequency and damage.

  • Keep large sagebrush patches intact
  • Do not introduce non-native monocultures (crested wheatgrass), except non-persistent annual grasses for soil protection until native vegetation is established
  • Remove invasive species, such as Juniper, chetgrass and Japanese brome
  • Inter-seed range with native/beneficial seed mixes
  • Use state-certified weed free seed mixes and mulches
  • Use prescribed burns to create a normal fire pattern
  • Work with specialists to address and prevent chetgrass after wildfires and big game disturbances
  • Participate in weed control groups (such as Cooperative Weed Management Areas)
  • Contact an agency specialist to create a management plan that utilizes a mosaic pattern treatment

Predators

Ravens and birds of prey are considered threats to Sage-Grouse populations. It is important to remove structures that can be used as perches for predators in important Sage-Grouse areas.

  • Remove or locate fences, towers and power lines at least .6 miles from active leks
  • Remove or avoid locating new garbage and dead piles closer than .6 miles from occupied leks or within nesting or brood-rearing habitat
  • Limit access to leks or Sage-Grouse habitat by domestic pets
  • Install raptor perch deterrents on existing structures

Disease

Surface water developments, such as ponds, increase mosquito habitat, which results in increased Sage-Grouse mortality from the West Nile virus. Care should be taken to reduce habitat for mosquitos.

  • Build ponds with steep shorelines to reduce shallow water (install wildlife escape ramps if needed)
  • Increase the size of ponds and volume of water
  • Remove rooted vegetation
  • Fence pond sites to restrict access by livestock
  • Treat mosquito larvae in ponds with Bacillus thuringiensis or appropriate chemicals

For Development Activities

Roads

  • Locate roads in existing disturbed corridors or at least .6 miles from active leks and Sage-Grouse habitat
  • Close and rehabilitate duplicate or unnecessary roads
  • Reduce speed limits

Structures

  • Cluster disturbances at least .6 miles from leks and Sage-Grouse nesting and brood-rearing habitat
  • Place infrastructure in already disturbed locations
  • Bury power lines
  • Cover pits and tanks

Mitigation

Mitigation requires that impacts be avoided or minimized when possible and unavoidable impacts be compensated for in offsite locations. Some tools to consider for mitigation:

  • Conservation Easements: a conservation easement is a deeded restriction on the use of land. Landowners can sell or donate their development rights and set aside land for the conservation of Sage Grouse habitat with this tool.
  • Conservation Banking: a conservation bank is land that is conserved and permanently managed for endangered, threatened or candidate species and functions as an offset to adverse impacts to the species that occurs elsewhere. Landowners that place land in a conservation bank are compensated with habitat or species credits that can be sold to those who need to offset unavoidable impacts to Sage Grouse habitat.
  • Habitat Trading Credits: ecosystem credit markets are relatively new tools where landowners sell the ecosystem services conserved on their land (such as carbon, water quality, and habitat) as credits to industry and individuals wishing to offset or reduce their impact on natural systems. This market based approach to conserving Sage Grouse habitat could be in the form of habitat trading credits through state programs.

Conservation Considerations

Because monarch butterflies’ migratory range covers such a large distance a multiple life cycles, they need to have the right plants at the right time along their migration route. Caterpillars need to feed on milkweed to complete their life cycle, and adult butterflies need the right nectar producing plants in bloom for needed energy.

Agricultural producers in the Midwest and southern Great Plains are key stewards to help combat the decline of monarch butterflies by planting milkweed and other nectar-rich plants on their land. Milkweed not only provides food for monarchs, it also supports other pollinators such as honey bees that are vital to agriculture.

Increasing the abundance, quality and distribution of habitat across its summer range is considered paramount to recover the species. There are many conservation practices that can benefit monarch butterflies as well as other insects.

Monarch butterflies prefer a mid-successional plant community, rich and abundant in nectar- rich forbs. These conditions are seldom static, but rather require regular monitoring to identify the need to implement periodic disturbance (e.g. mowing, burning, disking, grazing or application of herbicides).

A limiting factor for monarchs in the Midwest is the availability of quality breeding habitat (i.e., grassland containing a significant milkweed component). Additionally, others suggest the lack of nectaring habitat, particularly during the fall migration, may be a population stressor.

Milkweed not only provides food for monarchs, it also supports other pollinators such as honey bees that are vital to agriculture. Milkweed also provides homes for beneficial insects that control the spread of destructive insects. Milkweed is a challenging plant to eat. It is covered with hairs, contains a sticky, gummy latex, and is highly toxic. Yet there are a variety of insects that are specialists on feeding on milkweed. The caterpillar of the monarch butterfly is the most famous.

Financial and Technical Assistance Programs

The USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial assistance to help landowners manage for monarch habitat on farms, ranches and forests (learn more here »). This assistance helps producers plan and implement a variety of conservation activities, or practices, that benefit the monarch, pollinators and many other wildlife species.

Help from the NRCS is designed for producers and conservation partners to plant milkweed and nectar-rich plants along field borders, in buffers along waterways or around wetlands, in pastures and other suitable locations.

Technical and financial assistance is provided by the NRCS through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and Conservation Stewardship Program, three programs funded through the Farm Bill, the largest funding source for wildlife habitat conservation on private lands.

Individual Gardeners

From a small pot on your front steps to a backyard pollinator garden, there are many ways individuals can provide essential Monarch Habitat.

  • Choose your location: Butterflies enjoy basking in the sun. Gardens should be planted in sunny spots, with some protection from the wind.
  • Take a look at your soil: Break ground to see the consistency of the soil in your yard. Soil may influence the kinds of plants you can grow, or may require special considerations. If you find that your soil type doesn’t match the plants you’d like to plant, you might consider building a raised bed or using flower pots.
  • Prep your soil: If you’re planting in your yard, remove the lawn and current plant cover and rake the soil. Additional dirt can be helpful no matter the location and is necessary for raised beds and flower pots - add your soil to the bed or pot.
  • Choose your plants: Find a nursery near you that sells native and local plants and milkweed for your area. Native plants are the ideal choice because they require less maintenance and tend to be heartier.
  • Choose plants that have not been treated with pesticides, insecticides or neonicotinoids.
  • Plant perennials to ensure your plants come back each year and don’t require a lot of maintenance.
  • Choose a diversity of plants that bloom throughout the seasons to ensure pollinators benefit in the spring, summer and fall. This will also ensure that your garden is bright and colorful for months!
  • Choosing seeds or small plants: Small plants that have already started growing in a nursery are simple and show instant return on pollinator visits, especially if you are planting in a small space. Seeds are best if you have more time. If you’d like to use seeds, plan ahead to plant in spring or fall, giving the seeds time to germinate. Seeds can also be best if you are doing a very large garden as they tend to cost less. Remember to water your seeds even before you see plants.
  • Plant your flowers and milkweed: For small plants, dig holes just big enough for the root system. Cover the roots with dirt and reinforce with dirt or straw mulch to reduce weed growth. For seeding, spread seeds across your freshly prepared garden and cover them with dirt. Consider adding some flat rocks so butterflies can bask in the sun!
  • Wait, watch, water and weed your garden: It may take some time, but you will eventually see butterflies and other pollinators enjoying your garden. Make sure to weed and water your garden to keep it healthy.

Community Gardens

Creating pollinator habitats can be a rewarding activity, and just about anyone can do it. Community gardens, school yards, and even the court yard of a business all have the potential to be habitat with the right landscaping.

The National Wildlife Federation’s Community Wildlife Habitat Program partners with cities, towns, counties, neighborhoods, and communities of all kinds to become healthier, greener, and more wildlife-friendly. Community Wildlife Habitats garden and landscape with wildlife in mind, promote the use of native trees and plants, work to reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and chemicals, and integrate wildlife-friendly practices into sustainability plans and park master plans. Through this program your communities can enhance and restore islands and corridors of wildlife habitat in urban and suburban areas nationwide, while at the same time connecting to existing work around climate resiliency, community resiliency, urban forestry, water conservation, beautification, and more.