Conifer encroachment makes sagebrush habitat unusable for sage-grouse and most other sagebrush-obligate wildlife. These species simply cannot use the more forested habitats produced by encroachment—they cannot tolerate increased vertical structure.

For example, the graphic on the right (Miller et al. 2005, Figure 32) shows estimated habitat suitability for several species of sagebrush-associated birds as the habitat transitions from sagebrush to highly encroached stands (Phase III); the species of highest conservation priority are generally those which prefer the habitat structure to the left side of this graphic. Conifer encroachment also modifies many other aspects of the sagebrush biome: it reduces grass and shrub cover, provides habitat for predators, reduces groundwater, alters hydrology, and alters the fire regime, allowing for crown fires. Fortunately, a lot of science is available to document this problem and to identify solutions to it. Click the image to view larger.

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Interesting Facts


Estimated Greater Sage-Grouse
remaining in the Western states


Historical range now occupied
by sage-grouse


Acres of sagebrush
in North America