Greater Sage Grouse –
species of concern –
Male Greater Sage Grouse weigh up to seven pounds making them the largest grouse in North America. Males are known for their spectacular courtship displays sometimes involving up to 200 birds. Adults eat insects and survive on sagebrush in winter. Their range before the 19th century was nearly all the American West into the Midwest and three Canadian provinces with a population estimated as high as 16 million. In 2000 estimates had their numbers as low as 100,000.
Greater Sage Grouse are dependent on large areas of of continuous sage brush habitat for their survival. Overhunting and degradation and fragmentation of their habitat caused their historic decline. Today habitat loss is escalated by invasive species such as cheatgrass, wildfires, energy development, urbanization, agricultural development, intensive grazing, and infrastructure development.
In 2010 it was determined that the Greater Sage Grouse warranted being protected by the Endangered Species Act, but other species in greater need came first. Still federal and state wildlife agencies were already working together to develop a comprehensive strategy to conserve sage grouse habitat, leading to many years of work for these agencies in collaboration with ranchers, industry, and conservation groups to save the bird from extinction. Commercial interests joined the efforts in order to to keep the sage grouse from being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act which would create actions they found too restricting.
In 2015 these efforts climaxed with the Greater Sage Grouse being determined to not merit being listed as threatened. This outcome was due to the agreement between a myriad of private interests and government agencies to protect and restore millions of acres for the continued existence of not only the grouse but the 350 other species that call the remarkable sagebrush lands their home.