Burley Landscape Sage Grouse Habitat Restoration

Science Center Objects

Characterized by a vast landscape dotted with sagebrush and juniper-clad foothills, the area surrounding the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Burley Field Office in Idaho is home to a variety of species, such as the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), antelope (Antilocapra americana), bighorn sheep(Ovis canadensis), and pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis). Many of these species depend on the sagebrush steppe ecosystem that was historically present in this region. Starting in the late 1800s with the Euroamerican settlement of the west, this sagebrush steppe ecosystem has been rapidly changing into woodlands dominated by Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)and conifers (Blank and others, 2008). This transition from sagebrush and perennial grasses to a landscape encroached by juniper trees has decreased the available habitat for sagebrush-dependent species such as sage-grouse and mule deer. The change to a wooded landscape has also dramatically increased fire risk, which further increases the risk of loss to both human infrastructure and wildlife habitat. 

Sage brush restoration project near Burley, Idaho.

Sage brush restoration project near Burley, Idaho.

From 2008 through 2014, the BLM’s Burley Field Office led the Burley Landscape Sage-Grouse Habitat Restoration Project to improve former sage-grouse habitat and reduce the overall fire hazard in the area. Although the majority of work for this project was completed on Federal lands, the BLM partnered with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Pheasants Forever to complete project treatments on adjacent state and private lands. To restore wildlife habitat and reduce fire risk, the BLM removed juniper trees to open wildlife travel corridors and provide firebreaks, and seeded perennial grasses, forbs, and shrubs to re-establish sagebrush steppe vegetation. The methods used to accomplish this work include a variety of management tools, including hand thinning, mechanical treatments, and aerial seeding. By removing encroaching trees and establishing desired understory vegetation, these restoration projects are designed to maintain and enhance the long-term resilience of restored landscapes. 

The U.S. Geological Survey collected data on restoration activities and expenditures to estimate the economic activity supported by this project. Background information on the Burley Landscape project was obtained from Brandon Brown, BLM, written commun., 2015; and U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 2015.  

References Cited 
Blank, Robert; Bunting, Steve; Hild, Ann L.; Kinter, Cecilia Lynn; McArthur, Durant; Meyer, Susan; Miller, Rick; Roundy, Bruce; Whittaker, Allison; Shaw, Nancy; and Tausch, Robin, 2008, Sagebrush steppe—A story of encroachment and invasion: Joint Fire Science Program Fire Science Brief, Issue 27, accessed June 16, 2015, at https://www.firescience.gov/projects/briefs/00-1-1-03_FSBrief27.pdf

Link to ScienceBase page for this project

Burley landscape sage grouse habitat restoration