Due to the sage grouse’s declining populations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered listing the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, a ruling that would have dramatically threatened the West’s economic prosperity.

Our Role

Over the last decade, The Conservation Fund has taken a collaborative approach to conserving sage grouse habitat by working with local communities in Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado and Oregon to bring landowners, federal, state and private partners, such as the Jackson Hole Land Trust, to implement innovative solutions that benefit wildlife, ranchers and the economy.

Many ranches in the West contain high-quality sagebrush-steppe habitat ideal for the sage grouse and more than 350 other species, like elk, deer, pronghorn and moose. Alongside our partners, we work with these ranching families to purchase conservation easements on their properties, which prevents development and resulting habitat fragmentation on the property. Ranchers maintain ownership of the land and continue their ranching activities. The income from the sale of a conservation easement can even help ranching families improve or expand their operations, ensuring a stronger foundation for the ranching economy.

“My Dad and Grandad homesteaded that ground in the early 1930’s, and we’ve taken good care of it and plan to leave it in better shape than how we got it. That’s the main purpose,” said Kip Alexander, a longtime Pinedale, Wyoming, landowner with a conservation easement on his family property. “It’s a pretty nice area with access to the river. The elk, deer, antelope and even moose all use it, and this year we had more grouse than usual—bunches of grouse. This easement will help us do what we wanted to do for many years now, and we appreciate all that Luke Lynch and The Conservation Fund did for us to make this happen. It’s a great outcome for the land and for our family.”

The Conservation Fund has protected hundreds of thousands of acres of sage grouse habitat in the West. In Wyoming, where nearly 40 percent of the world’s greater sage grouse population resides, we have conserved 15 properties and 58,500 acres through our Wyoming Sage Grouse Conservation Campaign.

Why This Project Matters

In September 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the historic decision that the sage grouse does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act. This decision was due in part to the successful conservation efforts that have taken place on private ranchlands over the past several years, and the likelihood that these efforts will continue in the future.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell praised the collaborative efforts to protect the sage grouse, saying: “That’s the model for the future of conservation. That big picture, roll up your sleeves, get input from all stakeholders kind of planning is how land management agencies should orient themselves in the 21st century."

Learn More

Press Release
Casper Star Tribune Op Ed
Budd Ranches
McElroy Ranch

Did You Know?

  • The sage grouse’s spectacular mating dance is a sight to see and draws birders from all over the country.
  • The sage grouse has relatively poor eyesight and will avoid tall objects because it mistakes them predators. Its poor eyesight also leads to many fatal collisions with fences.
  • Protecting sage grouse habitat is one of the largest conservation efforts in history.

Our Partners

Bureau of Land Management
Colorado Headwaters Land Trust
Cross Charitable Foundation
Gates Family Foundation
Great Outdoors Colorado
Knobloch Family Foundation
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Pioneers Alliance
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Sage Grouse Initiative
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Wyoming Game & Fish Department
Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust
Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust