OSU helps cattle ranchers, environmentalists save sage-grouse

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Oregon ranchers sold $800 million of cattle in 2011. (Photo by OSU's EESC.)
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What's good for the threatened bird, turns out to be good for the herd

Oregon is home to 1.8 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, unmanaged grazing and aggressive weeds have disturbed its ecosystem.

In an effort to preclude an ESA listing, the Oregon State University 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.

Much of the science that will be used to develop conservation plans will come out of OSU's Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center.

Sources: Dustin Johnson, a livestock and range specialist with the OSU Extension Service; OSU Extension's 2011 Oregon County and State Agricultural Estimates; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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