Protecting a Western Icon

Every spring, male sage-grouse gather in special open areas surrounded by sagebrush called leks to strut and dance at sunrise to attract watching females. Sage-grouse is one of the West’s most iconic species—and one of the most imperiled. In early 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that sage-grouse deserve protection as an endangered species but these protections have been put on hold.

Sage-grouse needs large areas of healthy sagebrush habitat and these places are rapidly disappearing due to wildfires, invasive species, and development. The Idaho Conservation League is working with ranchers, sportsmen, bird watchers, government agencies and energy companies to protect and restore habitat for sage-grouse and other species.

The sage-grouse face many threats. Ever-larger fires burn through habitat in Idaho and prepare the way for invasive plants like cheatgrass, which dries early in the season and burns frequently. Large areas of sagebrush habitat have disappeared in the conversion to agriculture and to urban land use, and through overgrazing by livestock. More recently, large-scale energy developments such as transmission lines and utility-scale wind projects may threaten core habitat for this sensitive species.

The Idaho Conservation League serves on the Idaho Sage-grouse Advisory Committee which coordinates conservation efforts. We also served on the Governor’s Sage-grouse Task Force and raised the bar on proposed state protections. We are advocating for additional restoration efforts so sage-grouse can continue strutting and dancing in the future.