A Decade of Science Support in the Sagebrush Biome

Cover image of A Decade of Science Report

September 30, 2021

Science-driven conservation is a core tenent of Working Lands for Wildlife’s approach to conservation. This new report summarizes more than a decade of WLFW-supported science in the sagebrush biome.

>>Watch a replay of the public presentation on a Decade of Science in the Sagebrush Biome here<<

A new report from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) details the accumulated findings from more than a decade of conservation science in the sagebrush biome.

The report, titled A Decade of Science Support in the Sagebrush Biome, quantifies the cumulative outcomes of conservation work by the WLFW Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI). NRCS launched the initiative in 2010 to help agricultural producers voluntarily reduce threats facing sage grouse on working rangelands across the western United States.

Using voluntary and incentive-based Farm Bill conservation programs, SGI addresses non-regulatory threats facing the sage grouse, mainly the primary reason for population declines – habitat fragmentation. The popularity of SGI’s shared vision for achieving wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching has resulted in the conservation of 8.5 million acres of working lands and maintained landowner participation for more than a decade.

To maximize benefits, NRCS – through SGI – invested in co-produced science, where scientists work together with private landowners and other stakeholders throughout the research process. These collaborative partnerships helped provide insights to the practitioners most pressing questions and sparked new ways of thinking about how to address complex and widespread threats facing wildlife and rangelands. They also help quantify the outcomes of this working lands approach to conservation.

“These scientific studies were coproduced with scientists and stakeholders from working lands across the West, making this science immediately actionable,” said David Naugle, WLFW science advisor. “This report also details WLFW’s advanced spatial technologies that help practitioners best identify where conservation work will yield the greatest outcomes.”

At the time of this report, WLFW scientists have authored 61 peer-reviewed publications that help inform the conservation of this landscape. The papers have been cited more than 1,200 times by other researchers and another 43 times in the Federal Register to articulate the outcomes of voluntary conservation.

WLFW research aligns with the primary threats that can be reduced with voluntary actions, including the conversation of sagebrush rangelands, woodland expansion, invasive annual grasses, and dewatering of wet meadows and riparian sites. Addressing these threats effectively requires actionable science which co-production provides as stakeholders had a hand in both the study design and implementation to ensure findings were relevant and things they could act on.

The report also details WLFW’s advanced spatial technologies that help practitioners best identify where conservation work will yield the greatest outcomes. WLFW thanks the NRCS’ Conservation Effects Assessment Project–Wildlife Component as an early adopter and continued partner in the coproduction of science on western rangelands.

Findings from this WLFW science now provide the foundation for the Agency’s new five-year WLFW Framework for Conservation Action in the Sagebrush Biome. This framework represents NRCS’s continued contribution to voluntary conservation sagebrush country. This landscape is home to more than 350 plant and animal species, notably sage grouse and migratory big game populations. Learn more about this Framework at https://wlfw.rangelands.app.

Please explore this report through the links below. Click each link to download the respective sections of the report or download the full report.

>>Full Report<<


>>Advances in Rangeland Mapping Technology<<

>>Protecting Rangelands from Land-Use Conversion<<

>>Strategically Tackling Woodland Expansion<<

>>Grazing by Domestic Livestock<<

>>Restoring Riparian and Wet Meadow Resilience<<

>>Defending Core Rangelands Against Invading Annual Grasses<<

>>Rangeland Connectivity<<


How Landowners Can Get Involved

Farmers, ranchers and private landowners can work with NRCS to implement conservation practices on their working lands through technical and financial assistance. To learn more, contact your local USDA Service Center.


The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.