U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Wildlife| Greater sage-grouse Conservation
Good fences, good neighbors
On some acres of sage-grouse habitat that the BLM manages, this means that habitat conservation and restoration go on alongside or amid activities like recreation, energy development, and livestock grazing.
Structures built to manage some of these other activities can be obstacles for wildlife on the move. Sage-grouse, for instance, may become snagged on wire livestock fences while trying to fly over. This can result in direct mortality of individual birds and indirectly in habitat fragmentation that harms local populations and the entire species.
Fortunately, fences can be modified to allow sage-grouse to steer clear. Attaching tags or flags to some of the wires makes them more visible. The marker shown middle-right is made from an undersill trim strip of vinyl house siding.
Not every fence needs to be tagged. Most collisions happen around breeding areas. The birds' high fidelity to leks and nesting areas allows land managers to focus on marking nearby fences. Data about migration patterns helps identify other sections of fence that might need marking.
The photo bottom-right shows a section of fence that has just been tagged with the undersill-style markers. Click on the image to enlarge.
A 2009 policy memorandum directs all BLM offices to incorporate fence-marking into plans for new fences and to retrofit existing fences as needed to help avert collisions. New fences – including those for emergency stabilization and rehab – are to be placed sensibly, away from sites that sage-grouse frequent, as another means of reducing the risk of collision and entanglement.
The policy requires similar tagging on guy wires attached to wind energy turbines or meteorological (MET) towers placed on BLM-managed lands.
Monitoring fences after marking helps ensure that the measures are adequate.