Greater Sage-grouse

Sage Grouse

An icon of the American West, sage-grouse are found throughout Montana’s sagebrush steppe grasslands. This large grouse is well-known for its elaborate courtship displays. Each spring male grouse congregate at dawn on display grounds, called leks, and strut with tail feathers fanned and make popping noises with their bulbous air sacs. Bird watchers and photographers travel from around the world to observe this unique “dance”. In fall, when grouse are more cryptic, hunters enjoy searching the sagebrush for this unique game bird. Unfortunately, the sagebrush habitat that these grouse call home has been declining, leading to fewer grouse across the state.

Greater Sage-grouse Management

Montana, along with Wyoming, Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho, are the strongholds for sage-grouse across their range and have been the focus of multiple, recent petitions to list the species under the federal Endangered Species Act. The primary concerns for sage-grouse are loss and fragmentation of their habitat; in Montana on-going conversion of native shrub-steppe to cropland agriculture and new energy development are the biggest threats to conserving sage-grouse habitat.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks continues to manage sage-grouse populations, including monitoring populations, mapping priority habitats, and regulating hunting seasons through the Fish and Wildlife Commission process.  FWP provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners interested to enhance rangelands for cattle and sage-grouse, and offers rangeland protection options such as conservation easements and leases. Copies of FWP's tri-fold brochure, "Landowner Assistance Programs for Conservation of Greater Sage-grouse in Montana," are available online or from FWP's Coordinator.

FWP continues to help expand contemporary knowledge of sage-grouse biology and ecology. FWP is actively conducting grouse research to provide recommendations for sound management practices and to provide expertise on sage-grouse to the public.

In 2005, FWP worked with conservation and science partners to develop a state management plan. This plan remains the most comprehensive document on sage-grouse population dynamics and habitat requirements in Montana. FWP and partners use the plan to inform management actions; however, the plan is not a regulatory document. For information on the state’s regulatory Sage-grouse Habitat Program, administered by DNRC, see below

Greater Sage-grouse Habitat Advisory Council

The Greater Sage-grouse Habitat Advisory Council was convened in 2013 by Governor Bullock to “…gather information, furnish advice, and provide to the Governor recommendations on policies and actions for a state-wide strategy to preclude the need to list the Greater Sage-grouse under the ESA, by no later than January 31, 2014.” These recommendations provided the framework for the Governor’s Greater Sage-grouse Habitat Conservation Program. The Advisory Council’s duties were completed upon their submission of recommendations to the Governor.

Montana Greater Sage-grouse Habitat Conservation Program (administered by DNRC)

The Montana Greater Sage-grouse Habitat Conservation Program was established in September 2014 by Executive Order to provide regulatory protections for the species and establish a mechanism for voluntary habitat conservation actions. A second Executive Order was issued in September 2015 that clarified aspects of the Program and sets January 1, 2016 as the deadline for compliance by state agencies. DNRC administers the Program. For more information on the Program contact Carolyn Sime.

FWP Contact

  • Catherine Wightman

  • Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
  • P.O. Box 20070
  • Helena, MT 59620-0701
  • (406) 444-3377
  • Email