Here are several case studies that address resilience and resistance in sagebrush ecosystems. Explore each project below.

East-Central Montana


This area is characterized by:

  • Primarily cool and summer moist bordering on dry soil temperature and moisture regimes (Chambers et al. 2017, Figure 40).
  • Mostly privately owned.
  • Large cropland areas exist adjacent to Priority Areas for Conservation with moderate to high Greater Sage-Grouse populations; cultivation risk along with existing cropland cover maps can be used to help identify areas that have not yet been plowed that may be at high risk of future conversion due to suitable climate, soils, and topography.

Areas supporting high breeding habitat probabilities such as a higher proportion of sagebrush on the landscape and high population concentration centers on private lands should be targeted for conservation easements or term easements to keep native rangelands intact. USDA and state-based initiatives may provide incentives for transitioning expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or other cultivated lands to rangelands that support perennial plant communities. The Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI) Cultivation Risk layer (see also Smith et al. 2016) along with existing cropland cover maps can be used to help identify areas that have not yet been plowed but may be at high risk of future conversion due to suitable climate, soils, and topography.

Following stress or disturbance, these areas are susceptible to a variety of invaders such as Russian Knapweed (Centaurea repens) and cheatgrass, and EDRR can be used in all areas with high habitat probabilities and breeding bird concentrations to limit establishment of nonnative invasive plants. Also, introduced grasses such as crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum) can spread into and dominate sagebrush ecosystems and prevent establishment of sagebrush and other native species, and seeding these species following disturbances is not recommended. Livestock management to maintain a balance of native perennial grasses (cool and warm season species) and forbs will allow natural regeneration of sagebrush and increase competitive ability with nonnative invasive plants.


Placeholder image

Figure 40: Click on map for a printable PDF version.

Southwestern Wyoming

This area is characterized by:

  • Mountainous terrain with sagebrush ecosystems that range from cold and summer moist to warm and dry bordering on summer moist (Chambers et al. 2017, Figure 44).
  • Surface land management is primarily USFS, BLM, and private.
  • The area has wide-spread oil and gas development along with high Greater Sage-Grouse concentration areas.

In areas with high habitat probabilities and breeding concentration centers, avoiding development and fragmentation where feasible through implementation of appropriate state and federal policies is recommended (Resistance and Resilience Matrix cells 1C, 2C, 3C). Reducing energy and other transport corridors as well as vehicle access where possible can also minimize fragmentation. Exurban residential development is also fragmenting habitats and conservation easements can be an important tool for ameliorating this threat.

For disturbances that remove vegetation and cause soil disturbance such as well pads and roads, impacts can be minimized and mitigated through activities such as top soil banking, using certified weed-free (including annual bromes) seed mixes, appropriate seeding technologies, and monitoring. In low resilience and resistance areas, multiple interventions may be required to restore sagebrush habitat.

Because of the wide range of soil temperature and moisture regimes, the area is susceptible to numerous nonnative invasive plants and proactive weed management is recommended in all areas with high habitat suitability and breeding concentration centers. The spread of large weed infestations from areas with lower habitat probabilities can be prevented to protect higher quality habitat. In addition, numerous introduced invaders occur in this area, and seeding these species for reclamation or restoration of sagebrush habitat can be avoided, especially in cooler and moister areas where native species establish well.


Placeholder image

Figure 44: Click on map for a printable PDF version.


Livestock grazing strategies can be designed to maintain or improve the condition of native plant communities and decrease nonnative invasive species. Strategies that include periodic rest during the critical growth period, especially for cool season grasses, can increase native species and minimize invasion. This strategy is particularly important in areas with low resilience and resistance. Given climate warming, management aimed at restoring understory grasses and forbs has the potential to increase resilience and resistance to both drought and fire.


Northeastern Nevada

This area is characterized by:

  • Mountainous terrain with sagebrush ecosystems that range from cold and moist to warm and dry (Chambers et al. 2017, Figure 49).
  • Surface land management is primarily BLM, USFS, and private.
  • Many mid to high elevation areas are exhibiting conifer expansion, primarily Utah juniper, and low to mid elevation areas are exhibiting cheatgrass invasion and spread.
  • A relatively large portion of the area has burned in wildfires in and around areas with high concentrations of breeding birds. Since 1984 about 30% of the total area burned; 20% of the total area burned since 2000.

The primary management emphasis should be on retaining large extents of sagebrush and promoting recovery of former sagebrush areas that have burned. Fire suppression in and around large, contiguous areas of sagebrush and also in and around successful habitat restoration or post-fire rehabilitation treatments is a high priority. Fuels management also is a high priority and is focused on strategic placement of fuel breaks to reduce loss of large sagebrush stands by wildfire without jeopardizing existing habitat quality.

Juniper expansion is occurring in the eastern portion of the area. Here, management priorities include: (1) targeted tree removal in early to mid-phase (Phase I and II), post-settlement piñon and juniper expansion areas to maintain shrub/herbaceous cover and reduce fuel loads, and (2) targeted tree removal in later phase (Phase III) post-settlement piñon and juniper areas to reduce risk of high severity fire.


Placeholder image

Figure 49: Click on map for a printable PDF version.

In areas with moderate to high resilience and resistance, post-fire rehabilitation focuses on accelerating sagebrush establishment and recovery of perennial native herbaceous species. These areas often are capable of unassisted recovery and seeding is likely needed only in areas where perennial native herbaceous species have been depleted. Seeding introduced species like crested wheatgrass (Agropyron desertorum) or forage kochia (Bassia prostrata) can retard recovery of native perennial grasses and forbs that are important to sage-grouse and is not recommended. Seeding or transplanting of sagebrush may be needed to accelerate establishment in target areas.



To learn more about Resistance and Resilience, click Resources to view key and supplemental literature.