Over the past 150 years, sagebrush steppe, a vital habitat for sage-grouse, has been under threat from encroachment by conifers, primarily juniper and pine species. This topic guides you through the science behind conifer encroachment and presents you with land management tools you can use to help managers reverse this trend.
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.
To get started, select a section in the navigation above. You may complete the sections in order, or you may visit each in any order you choose.
Select Science to continue.
Estimated Greater Sage-Grouse
remaining in the Western states
Historical range now occupied
Acres of sagebrush
in North America