Most greater sage-grouse habitat is in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California; however, central Washington boasts a few, glorious pockets of sagebrush steppe. Photo by Rod Gilbert.

Most greater sage-grouse habitat is in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California, but central Washington boasts a few, glorious examples. Photo of sagebrush steppe by Rod Gilbert.

Sagebrush Conservation Nursery Programs

Plants for Sagebrush Steppe Restoration

With funding support from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and program coordination from the Institute for Applied Ecology, two Washington State prisons host Sagebrush Conservation Nurseries: Coyote Ridge Correction Center (CRCC) starting in 2015, and Washington State Penitentiary starting in 2017. The programs grow sagebrush for restoration of greater sage-grouse habitat and to provide restoration ecology education and training to incarcerated men. Inmate crews, staff, and a horticultural educator assist BLM in planting sagebrush each fall/early winter. All of the sagebrush plants grown in Washington State prisons will be planted in central Washington on BLM land burned by severe wildfires.

The Sagebrush Steppe Conservation Nurseries are part of a multi-state restoration program including corrections center nurseries located in six western states. The effort is lead by the Institute for Applied Ecology, a founding partner of SPP-Oregon, with funding from the Bureau of Land Management.

21465132362_bfbda8dd55_o2

A conservation technician tends young sagebrush plants growing in CRCC’s nursery. Photo by Jeff Clark, BLM.

At WSP, the conservation nursery is part of the Sustainable Practices Lab (SPL) “Green Zone,” and shares in the benefit of an experienced and highly effective SPL crew; the seeding assembly line sowed seeds for 25,000 plants in one day!! Photo by Gretchen Graber.

A program technician recently tapped into his artistic skills to share his enthusiasm for animal welfare; he created the sage-grouse image shown here. Photo by Gretchen Graber.

 

Why grow sagebrush?

A female sage-grouse in prime habitat, next to a sagebrush plant. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS, from https://goo.gl/nf8uEt.

A female sage-grouse in prime habitat, next to a sagebrush plant. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS, from https://goo.gl/nf8uEt.

A male greater sage-grouse struts his stuff. Photo from BLM Oregon & Washington’s photostream, from https://goo.gl/FuFeCP.

A male greater sage-grouse struts his stuff. Photo from BLM Oregon & Washington’s photostream, from https://goo.gl/FuFeCP.

Fifty percent of the sagebrush steppe habitat in the United States has been lost to large scale fires, conversion to other land uses, invasive cheat grass, and noxious weeds. Sagebrush habitat provides shelter and food for the greater sage-grouse plus more than 350 species of plants and animals that depend on sagebrush ecosystems for all or some of their needs. The greater sage-grouse is the largest native grouse species in North America and is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. From a 5/28/15 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) News Release:

The West is rapidly changing – with increasingly intense wildfires, invasive   species and development altering the sagebrush landscape and threatening wildlife, ranching and our outdoor heritage,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “As land managers of two-thirds of greater sage-grouse habitat, we have a responsibility to take action that ensures a bright future for wildlife and a thriving western economy. Together with conservation efforts from states and private landowners, we are laying an important foundation to save the disappearing sagebrush landscape of the American West.

Throughout the region, land managers are investing in habitat restoration to increase the greater sage-grouse population. Their voluntary conservation efforts may be working; in September, 2015, the US Department of the Interior ruled that Endangered status was not necessary for the greater sage-grouse. They will re-asses in 2020.

Blogs on Sagebrush Conservation

Sagebrush in Prisons Project (2016)

Growing Sagebrush in Central Washington (2015)

This is an example of healthy sagebrush landscape in central Oregon. Photo by Joseph Weldon, Wildlife Biologist, BLM.

This is an example of healthy sagebrush landscape in central Oregon. Photo by Joseph Weldon, Wildlife Biologist, BLM.