Restoration Handbook for Sagebrush Steppe Ecosystems, Part 2


CORVALLIS, Ore. — Ecosystem restoration is complex and requires an understanding of how the land, plants, and animals all interact with each other over large areas and over time. Today, the U.S. Geological Survey published part two of a three-part handbook addressing restoration of sagebrush ecosystems from the landscape to the site level.

“Land managers do not have resources to restore all locations because of the extent of the restoration needed and are challenged to meet multiple management objectives, including restoring habitat for wildlife,” said David Pyke, USGS ecologist and lead author of the new USGS Circular. “Focusing restoration efforts on enhancing goals of a functioning landscape is necessary to gain the greatest benefit for sagebrush-steppe ecosystems.”

Part two of the handbook introduces habitat managers and restoration practitioners to a landscape restoration decision tool to assist them in determining landscape objectives, identifying and prioritizing landscape areas where sites for restoration projects might be located, and ultimately selecting restoration sites guided by criteria used to define the landscape objectives.

The tool is structured in five sections, addressed sequentially. Each section has related questions or statements to assist the user in addressing the primary question or statement:

  • Am I dealing with landscape-related restoration issues?
  • What are regional or landscape objectives for restoration?
  • Where are priority landscapes and sites within landscapes for restoration?
  • Prioritize landscapes using a resilience and resistance matrix
  • Monitor and report information on your measurable landscape objectives

“Most restoration projects are conducted at the site or local level,” said Pyke. “But where restoration projects occur influences whether benefits from those projects can be seen at a landscape level. This is especially important for species, such as the greater sage-grouse, whose home range can extend beyond the boundaries of an individual restoration site.”

Pyke noted that greater sage-grouse and sagebrush-steppe habitat is used in the handbook only as an example of landscape restoration. The process presented by this series can be modified and used for other landscape-related restoration issues as well.

Part one of the handbook introduced basic concepts about sagebrush ecosystems, landscape ecology and restoration ecology. Part two helps guide selection of potential sites for restoration from a landscape perspective. Part three will help guide restoration decisions at a selected site.

The handbook was funded by the U.S. Joint Fire Science Program and National Interagency Fire Center, Bureau of Land Management, Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative, USGS and Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, with authors from the USGS, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State University, Utah State University and Brigham Young University.

Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in western North America.  Implementation of effective management actions for the benefit of sage-grouse continues to be a focus of Department of the Interior agencies following the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the species is not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act. 

Image:  Big Sagebrush Re-establishing 15 Years Post-wildfire Along the Boise Front Mountains

Young mountain big sagebrush shown in the foreground are re-establishing in a native bunchgrass community 15 years after a fire along the Boise Front Mountains looking unto the Snake River Plain, Idaho.
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Jhon Lawrence