Greater Sage Grouse Project 2014-2017


Brad Downey


The greater sage grouse is an iconic symbol of sagebrush habitat, which is a component of the
native grasslands in southeastern Alberta. Large reductions in sage grouse populations in Canada
from a variety of factors led Environment and Climate Change Canada to implement an
Environmental Protection Order (EPO) to protect sage grouse habitat on federal and public lands
across Canada. Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) worked collaboratively with Alberta
Environment and Parks (AEP) to identify key areas and willing participants (agricultural
producers) within the EPO area to implement wildlife-friendly fencing and supply wind breaks
in compensation for loss of other structures. Key areas included overwintering, breeding, and
nesting habitat near known lek sites. Producers interested in implementing beneficial
management practices had their enhancements paid for using funds from Environment and
Climate Change Canada to prevent burdening them with any additional expenses. Between 2014
and 2017, 17 miles (27.4 km) of page-wire fencing was removed along the Canadian Pacific
Railway line and replaced with wildlife-friendly fence lines consisting of a double-stranded,
smooth bottom wire located 18 inches (ca. 45 cm) from the ground; fence reflectors on the top two
wires; and perch deterrents on top of fence posts. Wind breaks were also provided to one
producer who agreed to have an old farmstead removed, which eliminated denning and nesting
sites for predators of greater sage grouse. Feedback from producers involved with the project has
been positive, and producers have felt that they received significant benefits for their operations.
Success of this project is due to 1) collaborative partnerships between ACA, AEP, and local
producers; 2) secure funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada; and 3) open and
honest communication with producers.

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