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Statewide Sage-Grouse population

Why is this a priority?
  • Sage-grouse historically occurred throughout the shrub steppe and meadow-steppe habitats of eastern Washington. The population is estimated to have declined 62% from 1970 to 2003 and local extirpations have been noted as recently as the 1980's.
  • Sage-grouse were recently a Candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) but due to the efforts in 11 western states to advance conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that listing was not warranted at this time. WDFW is a partner in efforts along with other agencies and groups working on habitat acquisition, population augmentation, interagency and municipality cooperation in habitat protection though wildfire fighting, and developing tools and using incentive programs (e.g., Farm Bill programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program) to facilitate restoration work to increase population numbers in the state.
How are we doing?

The five year running average of Washington’s sage-grouse population decreased to 1,002 in 2016, down from 1,118 last year; the actual population estimate was 749, down from 1,011 in 2015. Overall, the recent trend for sage-grouse populations has been downward, but an upward trend is anticipated with habitat improvements.

  • Washington’s Yakima Training Center population was down to 140 from 247 in 2015.
  • In 2016, Douglas County had decreased to 536 from 673 and the reintroduced population in Lincoln County remained stable at 60 birds.
  • Reseeding of some Conservation Reserve Program fields temporarily reduced suitable habitat to comply with changes to Federal Farm Bill programs intended to improve habitat for sage and sharp-tailed grouse. The Department hopes to see an upward trend in Douglass County as those changes are implemented and begin to positively affect the habitat.
  • Portions of the habitat in Douglas County are recovering from the large wildfires of 2012.

The minimum viable population for sage-grouse in Washington is estimated at 3,200 birds; that is the estimated population size that is large enough to avoid a decline in population and genetic health.

What are we working on?

WDFW has several efforts underway to analyze habitat use, translocate sage-grouses from other areas, complete a genetic augmentation, restore sage-grouse habitat, and facilitate planting programs. Some specific include:

  • Conducting analyses of habitat use and connectivity to inform technical evaluation of infrastructure projects such as power transmission lines, and to prioritize areas for conservation.
  • Continue to monitor reintroduced population in Lincoln County with birds from Oregon.
  • Working with Yakima Training Center on completing a genetic augmentation if a source of birds is secured.
  • Continuing habitat restoration in Lincoln County on WDFW lands, and under contract on BLM lands.
  • Facilitating planting plans for private landowners enrolled in Farm Bill conservation programs.
How can you help?

For information, please go to our website: http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/research/projects/grouse/greater_sage-grouse/

The following URL’s contain more information on possible volunteer opportunities :