Greater Sage-Grouse

Greater sage-grouse
Photo from Bob Wick, BLM

Greater Sage-Grouse

The greater sage-grouse is the largest sage-grouse in North America. This special species makes its home in the sage brush ecosystem and is notable for its unique mating rituals. Every spring, male sage-grouse will inflate yellow air sacs located on their chest and spread their feathers until they become almost spherical in shape while performing elaborate mating dances. “Sage-grouse” was considered a single species until the year 2000 when the Gunnison sage-grouse was discovered to be a separate species.

A Western Icon at Risk

Once abundant throughout the west, the greater sage-grouse is threatened by the loss of its sagebrush habitat. Oil and gas development, sprawl, human destruction of sagebrush, and invasive weeds like cheat grass have all taken a toll on the greater sage-grouse’s habitat. When damaged, sagebrush ecosystems can take 25-100 years to recover.

Current Status

In 2015 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service concluded that this species did not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. The decision was based on the implementation of a collaborative, 11 State, science-based conservation strategy that was hailed as a 21st century approach to conservation. Rocky Mountain Wild was a key participant in the construction of this agreement. Watch Secretary Jewell describe the historical importance of this effort.

Unfortunately, during the summer 2017, the Trump Administration began the process of dismantling the range-wide sage-grouse conservation plans that protect this bird. (See our current Action here). Rocky Mountain Wild is monitoring the implementation of the Trump plans and assessing our next steps, including petitioning the greater sage-grouse for a threatened status listing under the Endangered Species Act.