Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Wyoming
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wyoming Project

Relating Mule Deer Corridors to Sage-Grouse Conservation

January 2013 - November 2015


Participating Agencies

  • The Nature Conservancy

In spring of 2010, US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) introduced the Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI); A highly targeted and science-based landscape approach to delivering enough of the right conservation practices in the right places to elicit a positive sage-grouse population response to management. This Initiative continues to generate broad interest and support from diverse stakeholders and has yielded significant improvements benefitting sage-grouse on 2 million acres in two short years. Through SGI, NRCS is helping to orchestrate a paradigm shift in at-risk species conservation by using voluntary and incentive-based programs to positively influence sage-grouse populations, making an ESA listing unnecessary. At the heart of SGI is the commitment to maintain large and intact grazing landscapes capable of supporting world-class wildlife populations. In a recent outcome based assessment, funded by SGI, The Nature Conservancy teamed up with Initiative and developed build-out scenarios to simulate future energy and residential development to measure the efficacy of conservation actions for protecting sage-grouse populations. This approach quantifies how much sage-grouse population loss can be averted through conservation action and how spatial targeting can help maximize return on investment. No conservation action would decrease sage-grouse populations in Wyoming statewide by 14-29%. But findings also show that core area policy and $250 million in targeted easements cuts anticipated losses by nearly half statewide and reduces losses by two-thirds within sage-grouse high abundance areas. This winning strategy provides a framework to guide the quantity and placement of future conservation work, so that policy makers and practitioners can work together to maintain habitats that support healthy wildlife populations. SGI may have branded the initiative with the iconic sage-grouse but NRCS fully embraces a multi-species approach and mule deer are the vanguard of public support for landscape conservation in the West. Most importantly, similar and overlapping habitat needs make mule deer a foundation upon which SGI can reliably expand its partnership. Assessing the outcomes of SGI benefits to mule deer will enhance targeting of existing Farm Bill resources to mutually benefit both deer and grouse