U.S. Geological Survey Sagebrush Ecosystem Research Annual Report for 2020

Circular 1470
Edited by: Steve E. Hanser and Lief A. Wiechman



The sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystem extends across 251,473 square miles over portions of 13 western States. Affected by multiple stressors, including interactions among fire, invasive plants, and human land uses, this ecosystem has experienced significant loss, fragmentation, and degradation of landscapes once dominated by sagebrush. In turn, wildlife populations have declined following these deleterious conditions. Federal, State, local, and Tribal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and industry have been galvanized by declining wildlife populations to implement management actions to confront the impacts of these stressors and ensure the long-term availability of the sagebrush ecosystem for the broad range of uses critical to stakeholders in the Western United States.

The sagebrush ecosystem provides habitat for more than 350 species of plants and animals that are dependent on sagebrush for all or part of their annual life history. The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) stands out as an iconic species of this ecosystem. Sage-grouse populations occur in 11 States, and 2 Canadian Provinces and require relatively large expanses of sagebrush-dominated habitat to meet all their seasonal habitat needs. Recent management actions to conserve and maintain the sagebrush ecosystem have focused on the protection and restoration of sage-grouse habitat; however, each of the 350 species has a unique life history and differing area requirements (for example, large areas for mule deer [Odocoileus hemionus] and small areas for pygmy rabbit [Brachylagus idahoensis]), and some species, such as migratory birds, rely on various parts of the sagebrush ecosystem but only for part of the year (for example, Brewer’s sparrow [Spizella breweri]).

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has a broad research program focused on the sagebrush ecosystem, wildlife species within the ecosystem, and the species’ response to stressors and management actions. The program provides a foundation of scientific information for use in major land and resource management decisions in the sagebrush ecosystem. By providing the science to inform these decisions, the USGS is assisting land and resource managers at the Federal, State, Tribal, and local levels working towards the goal of sustainable wildlife populations and restored landscapes. This information can inform planning and management conducted by nongovernmental organizations as well.

USGS research is tailored specifically to inform adaptive management, improve strategies for maintaining existing areas of intact sagebrush, and restoring degraded landscapes. Examples of research support for partners include providing information for actions such as the preclusion of the need to list the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act and recent revisions to Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service resource management plans and land use. The USGS continues to provide foundational science to inform science-based decisions within the U.S. Department of the Interior and other Federal, State, and local agencies and their continued conservation, management, and restoration of the sagebrush ecosystem to help support local economies.

Suggested Citation

Hanser, S.E., and Wiechman, L.A., eds., 2020, U.S. Geological Survey sagebrush ecosystem research annual report for 2020: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1470, 94 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/cir1470.

ISSN: 2330-5703 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Research To Support the Management of the Sagebrush Ecosystem
  • Structure of the U.S. Geological Survey Sage-Grouse and Sagebrush Ecosystem Research Program
  • List of Projects
  • Project Descriptions
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title U.S. Geological Survey sagebrush ecosystem research annual report for 2020
Series title Circular
Series number 1470
DOI 10.3133/cir1470
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosys Science Center, Fort Collins Science Center
Description vi, 94 p.
Country United States
State Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details