On the heels of the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) decision not to list the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) under the Endangered Species Act and the concurrent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issuance of Records of Decision on over 98 land use plans focused on sagebrush habitat, the United States Geological Survey (USGS)  and many other agencies announced their issuance of part one of a three-part handbook series focused on sagebrush steppe ecosystems.  Several federal and state entities, including the U.S. Joint Fire Science Program and National Interagency Fire Center, BLM, Great Northern Landscape Conservation, USGS, and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, funded the handbook effort.  USGS, U.S. Forest Service, BLM, Oregon State University, Utah State University and Brigham Young University are co-authoring the handbook series. The handbook series  will focus on the greater sage grouse as the quintessential sagebrush species, but will also address biodiversity, reduction of invasive plant dominance, and improving livestock foraging stability.  The first part of the handbook focuses on:

  • similarities and differences among sagebrush plant communities;
  • plant community resilience to disturbance and resistance to invasive plants based on soil temperature and moisture regimes;
  • soils and the ecology critical for plant species used for restoration;
  • changes that can be made to current management practices or re-vegetation efforts in support of general restoration actions;
  • landscape restoration with an emphasis on restoration to benefit sage grouse; and
  • monitoring effectiveness of restoration actions in support of adaptive management.

The second and third parts of the handbook will focus on landscape level and site-specific restoration activities.  The USGS announcement did not include anticipated timing for parts two and three of the series.  More information about the handbook development and a link to part one of the series can be found here.