Basis for Conservation Strategy for Protecting the Corridor: Montana & Canada
Canada’s only viable population of sage grouse depends on habitats in two countries. The revelation that the birds migrate 70 to 120 miles south each winter came from SGI’s national science advisor Dr. Dave Naugle’s radio-tracking study in Grasslands National Park (near the border). As snows cover the silver sagebrush up north, birds in Saskatchewan fly south into Montana to find big sagebrush protruding through the snow. Severing the migratory pathway by converting native sagebrush rangeland to other land uses would imperil Saskatechewan’s remaining population.
To assure a future for Canada’s birds, the NRCS, The Nature Conservancy, and a rancher teamed up to create a permanent conservation easement that ensures grazing- not development or tillage agriculture – will remain the priority land use. The win-win solution maintains both the sagebrush migratory highway and a vibrant grazing industry.
A completed master’s thesis by Rebecca Smith serves as a mapping resource for conservation partners working across private and public lands to assure lands within the migration corridor are managed to benefit sage grouse habitat needs. A key source of funding for this significant science came from the Bureau of Land Management Montana/Dakotas region. For more information on the cross-boundary project and conservation easement funding, click here.
See also: Conservation Practices: Grazing Systems and Conservation Easements.