Every year, the West loses 1.3 million acres of its iconic sagebrush steppe, according to the newest report from a multi-agency group working to conserve this important ecosystem.
Every year, the West loses 1.3 million acres of its iconic sagebrush steppe, according to the newest report from a multi-agency group working to conserve this important ecosystem. That’s roughly 2,000 square miles — an area about the size of Grand Canyon National Park, or four times the sprawl of Los Angeles.
The largest terrestrial biome in the Lower 48, sagebrush rangeland spans 13 states and once covered a third of the continental U.S. Now, roughly half of it is gone. The new report, released in September, includes maps that show the full scale of the loss since 2001 and identify its causes. It’s the latest step in an effort by 94 scientists and specialists from 34 government agencies, universities, and nonprofits to catalog large-scale threats to the sagebrush biome. Later this winter, the group plans to publish a rangeland-wide set of priorities and strategies to conserve the roughly 115 million acres that remain.
“The fact that we’ve already lost half (the sagebrush rangeland), as far as function and intactness, is mind-blowing,” said Matt Cahill, head of the Nature Conservancy’s Sagebrush Sea Program, who helped produce the report. “Without a healthy sagebrush biome, we’re going to see life in rural America in the West become increasingly intractable.”
Read more at: Yale Environment 360
Sagebrush steppe in Owyhee County, Idaho. (Photo Credit: Famartin via Wikipedia)