Submitted to: Journal of Rangeland Applications
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/28/2013
Publication Date: 4/1/2014
Publication URL: handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/59319
Citation: Boyd, C.S., Beck, J.L., Tanaka, J.A. 2014. Livestock grazing and sage-grouse habitat: impacts and opportunities. Journal of Rangeland Applications. 1:58-77. Interpretive Summary: Sage-grouse are dependent on sagebrush plant communities as habitat for all life history stages, and much of the sagebrush biome is utilized as a foraging resource for grazing livestock. In this paper we examined the impacts of livestock grazing on sage-grouse habitat and the economic impacts of sage-grouse habitat management on livestock producers. Grazing impacts on habitat can be negative, positive, or neutral – for example, grazing can negatively impact screening cover in the vicinity of nests, but targeted grazing can also be used to reduce fine fuel accumulation in fire prone habitats – and economic impacts to producers are a function of operational capacity, and the degree of change required to implement conservation measures. Our review indicates that managing livestock grazing in sage-grouse habitat is context dependent, and that properly evaluating past, current, or future impacts will benefit from evaluating grazing within an ecological framework that highlights the impacts of grazing and other disturbance factors on plant community structure and composition.
Technical Abstract: Sage-grouse obtain resources from sagebrush communities for breeding, summer, and winter life stages. Grazing changes the productivity, composition, and structure of herbaceous plants in sagebrush communities, thus directly influencing the productivity of nesting and early brood-rearing habitats. Indirect influences of livestock grazing on sage-grouse populations include fencing, watering facilities, treatments to increase livestock forage, and targeted grazing to reduce fine fuels. To illustrate the relative value of sagebrush habitats to sage-grouse on year-round and seasonal bases, we developed state and transition models to conceptualize the interactions between wildfire and grazing in mountain and Wyoming big sagebrush communities. In some sage-grouse habitats, targeted livestock grazing may be useful to reduce fine fuels produced by annual grasses. We provide economic scenarios for ranches that delay spring turnout on public lands to increase herbaceous cover for nesting sage-grouse. Proper rangeland management is critical to reduce negative effects of livestock grazing to sage-grouse habitats.