Explore the Habitats
Sagebrush once covered some 63 million hectares of western North America. That's nearly as big as the state of Texas. Experts have estimated that more than 80 percent of the sagebrush ecosystems has been lost or altered since the days before Eurasian settlement. There are processes today that are continuing to alter sagebrush ecosystems and suitable sage-grouse habitat.
|These sample maps show sage-grouse and lesser prarie chicken distribution. For larger versions, click on each map.|
It is important to remember that not all sagebrush landscapes provided suitable habitat for sage-grouse. Of the original habitat suitable for sage-grouse, only slightly more than half, or 56%, remains.
To provide forage for livestock, people removed large areas of sagebrush and replanted them with non-native grasses. More recently, other human activities have led to further changes in the sagebrush ecosystem. In addition, a variety of exotic plant species have invaded the sagebrush ecosystem, contributing to intense wildfires and further degrading the habitat. Over half of the remaining sagebrush ecosystems, or about 64%, are managed by the Federal government.
Vast areas of grassland once dominated the central part of North America. Scientists usually divide the grasslands into tall-grass prairie, short-grass prairie, and mixed-grass prairie. The habitat described in the broadcast—where the lesser prairie chicken lives—is short-grass prairie, which today is found primarily in eastern New Mexico, and western Texas and Oklahoma. For decades, livestock grazing and conversion to agriculture have contributed to the loss of short-grass prairie habitat. In more recent years, drought and energy production have caused additional changes.