Michael Kochert, scientist emeritus with the U.S. Geological Survey in Boise, said, “Preliminary results of monitoring and research suggest that while some raptor species, particularly those on the plateau, have been fairly resilient to the changes, Golden Eagles and Prairie Falcons have been less resilient."
Since 1980, thousands of acres of the NCA's big sagebrush and salt desert shrub habitat have burned and been replaced with exotic annual grasses and weeds, particularly cheatgrass. This landscape-scale change to annual grassland has caused jackrabbit populations to plummet and ground squirrel populations to destabilize.
Early research results indicate a significant negative trend for the number of Golden Eagle pairs in the NCA, with a 30 percent decline between 1971 and 2009, according to Kochert. “Although various human uses have affected raptor populations, the loss of native plant communities, spread of annual weeds and the escalating fire cycle probably have had the most significant and profound influence.”
Conservation actions in the NCA include wildfire suppression and restoration of native shrubs and perennial grasses within Golden Eagle and Prairie Falcon foraging areas, as well as subsequent monitoring.