Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Projects on the Curlew National Grassland

Fence Marking

Photo of volunteers placing markers on barbed wire fence.Greater sage-grouse regularly fly at sagebrush-top height into their lekking grounds (historical breeding display sites) during dusk and pre-dawn hours; therefore, unseen range fences that protrude just above the sagebrush can become a lethal hazard for the grouse. Since 2012, the Curlew National Grassland has been marking range fences with tags to make these fences more visible to flying sage-grouse. We started with the fences in closest proximity to the leks and those in the most likely flight paths. Funding for the fence markers was obtained with the help of the Local Sage-grouse Working Group, through the Idaho State Office of Species Conservation and through and Caribou-Targhee Forest wildlife program funds. Much of the effort to install the markers has come from volunteers, including sportsman conservation groups (Idaho Falconers Association, Pheasants Forever, and the Chukar Foundation), Boy Scouts of America, and local high school ecology students. To date, we have installed visibility markers along 7.5 miles of fence on the Curlew National Grassland.

Photo of fences that have been marked with yellow ribbons.

Wet Meadows and Riparian Area Protection

Photo of a wet and riparian used by sage-grouse during brooding season.Another project we have completed for the benefit of greater sage-grouse on the Curlew National Grassland is the protection of important wet meadows and riparian areas used by sage-grouse during the early brood rearing period. These areas are heavily used by sage-grouse chicks because of the higher insect abundance and forb density, which are critical for chick growth. Hiding cover on and around these moist areas is critical for sage-grouse survival. Therefore, we fenced these areas to exclude livestock and to maximize cover. The funding for materials was obtained by a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and labor was provided by sportsman conservation groups (Pheasants Forever and the Chukar Foundation) and Forest Service crews. Fifty acres of exclosure were installed between 2012 and 2015. These areas are annually monitored for sage-grouse use and intermittently grazed to obtain optimal cover vegetation composition for sage-grouse brood rearing.