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Sage Grouse and conifer implications

Chris Merkord

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From the Birding Community E-bulletin, November 2013:


In mid-September, in a study published in the scientific journal BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION, a team of researchers validated efforts to limit the encroachment of juniper and other conifers in sagebrush habitat as an important way to maintain sage-grouse populations. The key finding stipulated that sage-grouse "are unable to make a living once encroaching trees occupy more than 4% of their habitat," said Dr. Sharon Baruch-Mordo, lead author and scientist with The Nature Conservancy.

No active sage-grouse leks were found within two-thirds of a mile of locations where these conifers exceeded 4 percent of the habitat. In the absence of fire, these confers greatly expand into sage-grouse habitat. In fact, in the Great Basin, conifers have expanded by 600 percent and now cover about 14 million acres. These trees use more water and out-compete bunchgrass, forbs, and sagebrush, and they also provide roosting sites for avian predators.

"Early tree removal is highly effective and less costly than a delay-and-repair approach that tries to turn a forest back into a sagebrush ecosystem again," explained Dr. Dave Naugle, co-author of the report from the University of Montana.

You can access the paper here: www.sagegrouseinitiative.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Baruch-Mordo.pdf

The issue is also well-summarized by the Wildlife Management Institute here: http://tinyurl.com/WMIsagegrouse-conifers

A five-minute video developed by the Sage Grouse Initiative explains the tree removal program, including the advantages to landowners:



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