OSU helps cattle ranchers, environmentalists save sage-grouse

Cattle on rangeland
Oregon ranchers sold $654 million of cattle in 2012. (Photo by OSU's EESC.)

What's good for the threatened bird, turns out to be good for the herd

Oregon is home to 1.3 million head of cattle, many of which graze on sagebrush grassland. But some of that same land is also home to the greater sage-grouse, which is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The bird occupies about half of its historical range in the U.S. and Canada because of degradation to its habitat. In Oregon, juniper trees, wildfires, and aggressive weeds have disturbed its ecosystem.

In an effort to preclude an ESA listing, the OSU Extension Service has been informing landowners about a system in which they can voluntarily agree to conserve the species' out-of-balance habitat. As part of this, Extension has developed inventory and monitoring guidelines for landowners, whose cattle stand to benefit from the rangeland improvements.

The science has been used to develop conservation plans from OSU's Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center. In May 2014, federal officials and cattle ranching representatives signed a historic agreement to protect sage-grouse habitat on certain federal and private lands. Nearly 40 landowners in Harney County representing 250,000 acres have formally expressed interest in signing the agreement, too, and six counties in eastern Oregon have indicated they want to use the agreement as a template.

Read more about the agreement in Oregon's Agricultural Progress magazine.

Sources: Dustin Johnson, a livestock and range specialist with the OSU Extension Service; Oregon Agriculture and Fisheries Statistics 2012-2013; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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