The Sage Grouse Initiative
Through the Sage Grouse Initiative, win-win, voluntary conservation is helping the bird survive and ranchers thrive in the American West.
Good For Birds & Herds
We apply the power of the Farm Bill to enhance private lands where sagebrush habitat is intact and sage grouse numbers are highest.
The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) was launched in 2010 as a new paradigm for conserving at-risk wildlife and western rangelands. SGI works through voluntary cooperation, science-based strategies and community support.
Now part of Working Lands for Wildlife, SGI is the largest land conservation effort in U.S. history ... and still going strong! Our collaborative model is world-renowned for benefiting agricultural producers along with 350 species that depend on healthy, intact sagebrush.
Western states where SGI works
Conservation with Impact
In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew its proposals to list both the greater sage-grouse and the the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Proactive, landscape-scale conservation partnerships like SGI have significantly reduced threats across 90 percent of the species’ breeding habitat.
This decision proves that diverse partners committed to a shared vision can achieve remarkable gains for wildlife.
2021 Progress Report
WLFW is enhancing NRCS’ ongoing conservation efforts to support sage-grouse recovery by strategically focusing the right practices in the right places to achieve beneficial outcomes.
Partnerships between NRCS, scientists, and private landowners provide scientific insights and tools that guide broad initiative investments, help plan and implement individual projects, and assess resulting outcomes.
This action-based framework is the culmination of multi-state, areawide planning initiated to update SGI 2.0 and its ongoing success in 2021-2025.
This framework also serves as NRCS’ ongoing contribution to the Sagebrush Conservation Strategy administered by Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Sharing common cross-boundary threats, NRCS staff across 11 western states collaborated to create this shared vision for conservation action.
Ranchers are stewarding our western heritage of vast skies, beautiful rangelands, and room to roam.
At its core, SGI is about having conversations at kitchen tables to talk through what works best for the people who live on and use the land. We understand the importance of flexibility, and the commitment it takes to build trust and credibility.
Grazing lands support a wealth of wildlife, while also producing our nation's food and fiber. Wildlife-friendly ranching practices that keep sagebrush range healthy and productive include:
- Rest-rotation grazing to foster healthy, diverse native plants
- Restoring wet meadows or creeks to improve water availability
- Removing woody species like juniper and pinyon-pine to improve forage and habitat
Cutting-edge science and technology allows SGI to direct resources where conservation returns are highest.
Three-quarters of sage grouse concentrate on one-quarter of their range. By focusing our efforts on the core habitats, we are able to spend our first dollar conserving 500 birds instead of just five.
Research shows that sustainable agriculture practices improve soil health, water quality, and plant diversity. Plus, they make rangelands more resilient to drought, fire, and other natural disturbances ... keeping ranches profitable and productive.
SGI also relies on science to document the outcomes from Farm Bill investments. These new insights help to continually improve conservation practices to ensure we’re benefiting ranchers and wildlife.
SGI funnels Farm Bill conservation funds to working sagebrush rangelands in core habitat areas across 11 states.
SGI offers technical and financial assistance for ranchers who live in sagebrush country through a suite of tried-and-true NRCS programs. These include:
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program
- Conservation Stewardship Program
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
We also offer contractual assurances to give agricultural producers the predictability they need to operate their farms and ranches into the future. Landowners who continue to manage their ranches using NRCS-prescribed conservation practices are ensured regulatory compliance under the Endangered Species Act for up to 30 years.
While Farm Bill programs fuel SGI, partners are the engine that powers our work.
Local conservation districts, state wildlife agencies, public land managers, non-profit organizations, universities, volunteer groups and more … it’s inspiring to see so many stepping up to safeguard sagebrush country.
It takes people helping people to get the work done. That’s why SGI and partners jointly fund more than 20 field positions in rural communities. From Malta, Montana, to Ely, Nevada, these range and wildlife conservationists are SGI's “boots on the ground” who support ranchers each day in on-the-ground conservation practices.