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U.S. Geological Survey

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Sagebrush steppe ecosystems in the United States currently (2016) occur on only about one-half of their historical land area because of changes in land use, urban growth, and degradation of land, including invasions of non-native plants. The existence of many animal species depends on the existence of sagebrush steppe habitat. The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) depends on large landscapes of intact habitat of sagebrush and perennial grasses for their existence. In addition, other sagebrush-obligate animals have similar requirements and restoration of landscapes for greater sage-grouse also will benefit these animals. Once sagebrush lands are degraded, they may require restoration actions to make those lands viable habitat for supporting sagebrush-obligate animals, livestock, and wild horses, and to provide ecosystem services for humans now and for future generations.

When a decision is made on where restoration treatments should be applied, there are a number of site-specific decisions managers face before selecting the appropriate type of restoration. This site-level decision tool for restoration of sagebrush steppe ecosystems is organized in nine steps.

●Step 1 describes the process of defining site-level restoration objectives.

●Step 2 describes the ecological site characteristics of the restoration site. This covers soil chemistry and texture, soil moisture and temperature regimes, and the vegetation communities the site is capable of supporting.

●Step 3 compares the current vegetation to the plant communities associated with the site State and Transition models.

●Step 4 takes the manager through the process of current land uses and past disturbances that may influence restoration success.

●Step 5 is a brief discussion of how weather before and after treatments may impact restoration success.

●Step 6 addresses restoration treatment types and their potential positive and negative impacts on the ecosystem and on habitats, especially for greater sage-grouse. We discuss when passive restoration options may be sufficient and when active restoration may be necessary to achieve restoration objectives.

●Step 7 addresses decisions regarding post-restoration livestock grazing management.

●Step 8 addresses monitoring of the restoration; we discuss important aspects associated with implementation monitoring as well as effectiveness monitoring.

●Step 9 takes the information learned from monitoring to determine how restoration actions in the future might be adapted to improve restoration success.


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