Sagebrush Steppe Uplands Habitat


Leks, or communal display grounds typically found in open areas within the sagebrush steppe habitat, provide a vital setting for the male greater sage-grouse's annual mating ritual. Once leks are established, they are used for many years if suitable habitat for nesting, brood rearing and breeding remain available.  Limited disturbance is another important factor. There are no leks for public viewing at Arapaho NWR. 

In addition to the various species of sagebrush and other shrubs, sagebrush steppe habitat is also prized for its diversity of flowering plants, and associated grasses. This upland habitat grows in areas like North Park where there is little rain, winters are harsh, and trees are restricted to streams or mountain slopes. Arapaho NWR’s sagebrush steppe habitat is 14,285 acres, making it the largest of the Refuge’s four habitat types. It is dominated by sagebrush, drought-tolerant perennial bunchgrasses, and forbs. Sagebrush provides critically important habitat for a number of wildlife species. Endemic wildlife inhabiting these upland areas include: greater sage-grouse, sage thrasher, sage sparrow, white-tailed jackrabbit and mountain cottontail rabbit, white-tailed prairie dogs and Wyoming ground squirrels. Large animals such as mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, moose, black bear, pronghorn, and coyotes also share the broad expanses of sagebrush steppe.

To graze or not to graze, that is the question? Grazing cattle has been used as a management tool to achieve optimal habitat conditions for wildlife and may be used again in the future. The decision to graze or implement any other management activities depends on keen observation by habitat managers and results from vegetation monitoring. While sagebrush is amazingly resilient to local climatic changes, it is vulnerable to large-scale climate change and replacement by exotic annual grasses and other invasive species. Land managers are being called on to monitor sagebrush steppe habitats and implement programs to minimize impacts in order to increase the resiliency of this special habitat. It is a critically important habitat for the greater sage-grouse whose populations have experienced a range-wide decline in recent years.  

For information about greater sage-grouse lek tours in North Park you can contact the North Park Chamber of Commerce.