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Chicken Challenge | Test Your Knowledge of Lesser Prairie-Chickens

Male lesser prairie-chicken. Photo Jeremy Roberts, Conservation Media

Test your knowledge about all things lesser prairie-chicken with our new Chicken Challenge! Every quarter or so, we’ll share a new Chicken Challenge that has some fun facts and tests your knowledge of the bird, its habitat, or other wildlife that live in the Southern Great Plains.

To kick things off, we thought we’d start with a quiz about the bird itself. So, go ahead and take the Chicken Challenge!

Fun Facts

  • The lesser prairie-chicken is the smaller of the two prairie-chicken species that live in the Southern Great Plains. The other, larger, one is the greater prairie-chicken. Both are members of the grouse family.
  • The lesser prairie-chicken’s scientific name is Tympanuchus pallidicinctus. This name reveals a lot about the bird itself: Tympanuchus (tim-pa-new-kus) combines the Greek word tympanon, which means drum, with nucha, the Latin word for neck. Together, they refer to the red air sacks that males inflate during courting and use to make their distinctive booming sound. Pallidicinctus (pal-lidi-cinctus)combines the Latin word pallid, which means pale, with the Latin word cinctus, which means banded. Thus, pallidicinctus refers the bird’s plumage, which is paler than that of the greater prairie-chicken.
  • Prairie-chickens obtain the water they need from the food they eat. They don’t need surface water, although they will drink water if they find it.

Take the Chicken Challenge | Lesser Prairie-Chickens


New FREE Low-Tech Riverscape Restoration Manual

“Let The Ecosystem Do The Work” – New Resource For Restoring Streams Simply

Free restoration manual explains effective & inexpensive low-tech methods for improving streams

The streams that thread through working lands in the American West sustain plants and animals, people and livestock. Unfortunately, thousands of miles of these precious waterways are degraded. This leaves rangelands in the arid West more sensitive to droughts, floods, and wildfire.

Click the image above to learn more and download this free manual.

Traditional approaches for restoring streams often involve costly fixes that change the shape of the waterway using sophisticated designs and heavy construction machinery. While this “form-based restoration” is appropriate for certain areas, it’s too expensive to re-work all of the streams in need.

Luckily, low-tech “process-based restoration” is emerging as an efficient and effective way to expand upon existing restoration efforts and restore more watersheds. This approach includes using low-tech tools—simple hand-built structures made from natural materials that have short-term lifespans—to initiate processes that allow Mother Nature to heal itself.

“It’s about letting the ecosystem do the work after a little jumpstart from us,” explains Jeremy Maestas, an ecologist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Since low-tech restoration projects are usually a fraction of the cost of traditional approaches, resource managers can treat more stream miles using these methods. Also, this low-tech approach gives land managers more options to address the vast network of wadeable streams in rural headwaters, which typically haven’t received the same attention as large waterways.

Practicioners learn how to build beaver dam analogues during an NRCS-led, low-tech restoration workshop. The manual was informed by these workshops to be a practical guide for all types of people.

In order to scale up, more people need to understand the principles underlying this new restoration approach and how to implement it. That’s why the USDA-NRCS partnered with Pheasants Forever and Utah State University Restoration Consortium to create a new, free design manual: Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes.


This resource provides the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the ‘what.’ Not only does it give practitioners nuts-and-bolts information on how to plan and implement low-tech restoration, it also summarizes the scientific ideas behind it. Jeremy Maestas, manual co-author

Joseph Wheaton, a fluvial geomorphologist at Utah State University and lead author of the manual, explains that many of the modern-day problems facing streams can be traced back to their “structural starvation”.

“These days, most streams are too efficient of drains,” says Wheaton. “They’re not resilient to floods, droughts, or wildfires, nor do they provide the structurally diverse habitat that fish and wildlife need to thrive.”

Building a beaver dam analogue in Wyoming.

Re-introducing wood or beavers to streams adds the structural complexity needed to set off a chain reaction that helps reverse channel incision, reconnect floodplains, and keep streamsides greener longer. Low-tech structures can be used to mimic natural processes—like wood accumulation or beaver dams—that slow down and spread out water. This helps store water longer on the landscape and minimize the impacts of floods, droughts, and fires.

Beaver dam analogues (BDAs) and post-assisted log structures (PALS) are the main tools described in the manual. BDAs were first used on Bridge Creek in Oregon over decade ago as a way to attract beaver back into the watershed to improve ecosystem function.

Extensive research on Bridge Creek showed BDAs were highly effective at initiating process-based restoration, producing population-level benefits for threatened steelhead. A recent study also found vegetation productivity has increased by 25% because of the project, suggesting that low-tech restoration pays dividends for ranchers too.

A completed beaver dam analogue on a creek in Wyoming.

To capitalize on the growing popularity of these low-tech, process-based restoration approaches, Maestas and Wheaton teamed up to host nearly a dozen field workshops for resource managers all around the West. The NRCS, Pheasants Forever, Utah State University and local partners have sponsored these hands-on field trainings where participants learn how to build BDAs, PALS, and other techniques to restore degraded creeks.

“The manual provides important information on how low-tech structures fit into the big picture goal of restoring self-sustaining, healthy streams at scales that matter,” explains Wheaton.

The new manual was informed by input from workshop participants as well as lessons learned from applying these approaches across the West. It gives practitioners step-by-step instructions for how to plan, design, and build low-tech structures. Importantly, the manual also lays out 10 principles that guide the whole approach.

This figure from the manual highlights how these practices can be applied to wadeable streams, which represent significant portions of most watersheds in the West.


“Our goal is to get more people off the sidelines and into the creek to participate in restoration,” says Maestas. “It’s quickly become a popular practice, since the structures are easy to build, results are easy to see, and almost anyone can do it.”




>>Download the manual>>

 >>Learn more about low-tech restoration>>

 >>See a story map about wet habitat conservation>>

>>Read new research on conserving wet meadows & streams>>


Conservation Successes – 2018 LPCI Scorecard

LPCI Scorecard Highlights our Successes

Since the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative first began in 2010, we’ve worked across the southern Great Plains to improve lesser prairie-chicken habitat, improve rangeland health, and build stronger farming and ranching communities, all of which has resulted in an improved outlook for the iconic bird.

In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that putting the lesser prairie-chicken on the Endangered Species List was not warranted, but we didn’t stop working to improve the bird’s habitat. Instead, we set aggressive milestones for the conservation practices we implement with our partners and producers. Our goal was to complete or exceed each milestone by the end of fiscal year 2018.

Despite our work (and the work of many others), threats to the bird’s long-term health still remain. These threats also impact other wildlife and even the ranchers and communities that also rely on healthy rangeland. That’s why we have continued to work with ranchers and our partners to improve lesser prairie-chicken habitat by strategically focusing our  conservation practices:

Click on the image above to read the 2018 LPCI Scorecard.

    • Support sustainable grazing management that provides nesting cover and supports native plants.
    • Increase connectivity of habitat.
    • Improve management of weeds and invasive species.
    • Reduce tillage on agricultural fields.
    • Protect, maintain and restore large tracts of grasslands and prairies.
    • Maintain stability of land use and conserve shrub-dominated habitats near lek sites.

The new 2018 LPCI Scorecard shows how we’ve done since 2015. Highlights include:

    • Total NRCS investment of $6.7 million in LPCI-related conservation and activities.
    • 69 contracts covering more than 250,000 acres of land for LPCI-related conservation and activities.
    • Removed invading conifers and mesquite on more than 26,000 acres.
    • Improved more than 370,000 acres of degraded rangeland.
    • And lots more…


Ranchers cutting cedar

Woody Invasion in the Great Plains Diminishes Water Resources

New research details impacts to water from encroaching eastern redcedar and other conifers on landscapes in the Great Plains.

> Download and read the full Science to Solutions report here >

A new study from University of Nebraska-Lincoln ecologist and Working Lands for Wildlife partner, Dirac Twidwell, synthesized decades of research on the growing impact of invading conifers.

Redcedar cuttings

Redcedar cuttings in Nebraska.

The Great Plains cover one-fifth of America and provide critical farming and agricultural lands, while hosting numerous grassland-dependent species, like the lesser prairie-chicken. Comprised predominantly of grasslands, the Great Plains depended on regular low-severity fire, which removed woody plants and maintained native grass cover. As historic fire regimes have been altered through fire suppression and land conversion, woody plants like eastern redcedar, Ashe juniper, and mesquite have moved into rangelands at an alarming and increasing rate.

This vegetation conversion is a national issue given how it affects the economies of several states that play key roles in agricultural production and wildlife habitat.

Simple transitions in vegetation can have far-reaching impacts. This study shows how trees taking over rangelands can affect working lands, wildlife and water in complex ways — even impacting our well-being in metro areas. – Dirac Twidwell, study author.

Illustration showing impact to water cycle from redcedar conversion

This illustration summarizes the alteration of the water cycle following a grassland transition to redcedar woodland. It shows the net loss to aquifer recharge and streamflow as trees intercept water.

Click on image above to download and read this Science to Solutions report.

Key Findings from the study:

  • Lesser prairie-chickens won’t nest in grasslands with more than one tree-per-acre and stop using grasslands altogether when tree density reaches three trees-per-acre. (Read a prior Science to Solutions about this here.)
  • Encroaching woody species are rapidly taking over native prairie in the Great Plains, which causes unfortunate ecologic, economic, and hydrologic consequences.
  • These impacts include: forage loss, increased risk of fire, decreased habitat quality for wildlife, and diminished water resources.
  • Model simulations suggest that complete conversion of rangelands to redcedar woodlands in the central Great Plains would reduce streamflows by 20-40 percent.

Fortunately, through a variety of Working Lands for Wildlife and Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative projects, producers and land managers are removing encroaching conifers. In fact, through Working Lands for Wildlife, the NRCS has worked with producers to remove encroaching conifers on 110,000 acres of rangeland in the Great Plains.

> Download and read the full Science to Solutions report here >

Conservation Insight Report Confirms LPCI Projects Benefit Birds and Ranchers

New Report Confirms LPCI Projects Are Good for Chickens and Ranchers

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife initiatives strategically implement conservation practices that benefit working lands, the wildlife that live on these lands, and the surrounding local communities. One way NRCS ensures its efforts are making a meaningful and lasting conservation difference is through the multi-agency Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) and its wildlife Conservation Insight series. In January, CEAP published “LPCI Practices Benefit Lesser Prairie-Chickens and Ranchers,” which highlights the win-win conservation solutions implemented by the NRCS-led Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative (LPCI) and its partners.

This report summarizes the findings of five recent studies that assessed conservation practices implemented through LPCI, including removal of encroaching woodland species on rangeland, using prescribed fire, and implementing grazing systems. The studies demonstrate that these practices benefit both lesser prairie-chickens and producers implementing the practices.

Click on the image above to download the report.

The findings are summarized below and the full report is available here.

  • Conservation practices applied through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI) are beneficial to lesser prairie-chickens (LPC), the land, and livestock in the Great Plains.
  • Even low levels of woodland encroachment into grasslands have negative consequences for LPC. Woody plant removal (mechanical, chemical, or fire) can improve habitat quality for LPC and other wildlife, and it can benefit livestock by improving forage and soil water availability.
  • Ranchers using adaptive grazing management with combinations of decreased stocking densities, larger pastures, longer grazing periods, and targeted forage utilization can balance economic and conservation concerns.
  • Managing livestock grazing on areas recovering from prescribed burns (known as “patch-burn” grazing) creates the diverse habitat structure and composition needed to support LPCs through different life stages and provides a more sustainable fuels management strategy than fire-only treatments.
  • Targeted application of prescribed practices for LPCs provides the greatest initial conservation benefits and improves the likelihood of success in long-term conservation planning. Land managers who focus on woody plant removal, grazing management, and patch-burn grazing methods within LPC habitat can improve habitat quality, facilitate the persistence of LPC, and promote LPC movement into unoccupied habitats. Expansion of these practices into unoccupied grasslands improves the potential for LPC to successfully recolonize areas from which it was extirpated.

 > Read Full Report Here >


WATCH NOW – Working Lands for Wildlife Presentations from Society for Range Management’s 2019 Conference

Working Lands for Wildlife video presentations from the 2019 Society for Range Management Conference now available for viewing

Did you miss the Society for Range Management’s 2019 Conference in Minneapolis this past February? Even if you were able to attend, you may not have caught all the different presentations during the packed few days.SRM 2019 Logo

Fortunately, we recorded the presentations that Working Lands for Wildlife sponsored under the “Harnessing Technology to Improve Conservation Effectiveness on Western Working Lands” symposium.

These nine presentations detail new technological innovations that are revolutionizing how managers, ranchers, and others can monitor, study, evaluate threats, and improve working rangelands across the West. Each presentation features the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative and Sage Grouse Initiative-affiliated researchers who helped develop these technologies for Great Plains and sagebrush ecosystems.

Through these informative and engaging presentations, range management professionals and producers can learn how to apply these innovations to their respective ranges.

All nine presentations are collected in one place on Sage Grouse Initiative’s YouTube channel and are available for viewing at your leisure. Each presentation is roughly 20 minutes long and includes clear audio and clear images from each presenter’s slides.

Read the full list of presentation titles, what you’ll learn from each presentation, and the presenter below or visit the playlist on SGI’s YouTube channel. While you’re there, check out the other videos we have, including prior SRM Conference symposium presentations.

Video One

PRESENTATION TITLE: Rangeland Analysis Platform: New Technology Revolutionizes Rangeland Monitoring

IN THIS VIDEO: See why the Rangeland Analysis Platform was created with a sneak peek into its future utilities

PRESENTER: Brady Allred – University of Montana

Video Two

PRESENTATION TITLE: AIM and Shoot: Delivering and Sharing Range Data Quickly

IN THIS VIDEO: Learn about the BLM’s new online app for faster processing and use of monitoring data

PRESENTER: Colin M. Dovichin – Bureau of Land Management

Video Three

PRESENTATION TITLE: Optimizing Productivity Models for Enhanced Rangeland Monitoring

IN THIS VIDEO: Hear how plant productivity is being remotely mapped to enhance conservation planning

PRESENTER: Nathaniel Robinson – University of Montana

Video Four

PRESENTATION TITLE: Mapping Riparian Sensitivity to Drought Stress: An Index for Evaluating, Targeting, and Monitoring Restoration

IN THIS VIDEO: View new remotely-sensed maps that can help managers improve riparian drought resiliency

PRESENTER: Nick Silverman –University of Montana

Video Five

PRESENTATION TITLE: Large Scale Rangeland Resilience Planning

IN THIS VIDEO: Get the latest on incorporating resiliency as an emerging theme in rangelands

PRESENTER: Dirac Twidwell – University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Video Six

PRESENTATION TITLE: Mapping Cross-scale Transitions in Rangelands

IN THIS VIDEO: Learn how technology is enabling early screening for undesirable vegetation transitions

PRESENTER: Dan Uden – University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Video Seven

PRESENTATION TITLE: Synchronizing Conservation to Seasonal Wetland Hydrology and Waterbird Migration in Semi-Arid Landscapes

IN THIS VIDEO: Understand the benefits of timing irrigation to aid in waterfowl migration

PRESENTER: Jason Tack – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (on behalf of Patrick Donnelly – USFWS)

Video Eight

PRESENTATION TITLE: Conifer Management in Context: Prioritizing Tree Removal Projects for Sagebrush and Woodland Obligates

IN THIS VIDEO: Learn how to incorporate spatial tools for songbirds into conifer management

PRESENTER: Jason Tack – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Video Nine

PRESENTATION TITLE: Quantifying Restoration Across the Sage Steppe: Mapping Conifer Cover, Removal Efforts, and Fire

IN THIS VIDEO: See how remote sensing is being used to track progress in conifer management

PRESENTER: Jason Reinhardt – University of Minnesota-Minneapolis

Video recordings are courtesy of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service-led Sage Grouse Initiative and the Bureau of Land Management

Patterns in Rangeland Productivity and Land Ownership and What They Mean for Conservation

Ask An Expert: Dr. Brady Allred, Associate Professor of Rangeland Ecology, University of Montana

Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest. ~ Aldo Leopold, Conservation Economics, 1934 essay from The River of the Mother of God: and other Essays by Aldo Leopold

Let’s start with a really basic question. What are rangelands?

Rangelands are non-forested, uncultivated lands that are mostly made up of grasses, forbs, and shrubs.

Where are most of the rangelands in the U.S.?  

Rangelands make up approximately one-third of the lower 48 states. Nearly all of that is in the western half of the nation, spanning the Great Plains to the Pacific coast.

Why are these landscapes so important?

In the continental U.S., rangelands comprise about 35% of the landscape. On a global scale, rangelands make up nearly 40% of the Earth’s ice-free surface. So, scale is one reason. More importantly, they provide numerous ecosystem services, which are benefits that humans gain from ecosystems, including forage and fiber like meat and wool, livelihoods like ranching, and recreation activities like hunting and bird watching.

What is vegetation productivity and specifically, net primary productivity, as it relates to rangelands in the conterminous U.S.?

Ecologically, vegetation production is the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis. Plants use that energy for their own metabolic processes and also to grow. Net primary production is the amount of energy that accumulates as plant biomass. Productivity is the rate of production over a given time period. Net primary productivity (NPP) is the rate of increase in plant biomass.

Now, that is the scientist in me speaking. When people think of rangeland productivity, they often think of how much grass or forage is produced during a single growing season or year. This is commonly measured locally by clipping and weighing vegetation and then expressed in pounds per acre (lbs/acre). Nearly everyone who has worked in rangelands is familiar with this, and it is fundamentally the same thing as net primary productivity.

Why focus on net primary productivity? In other words, why is quantifying NPP helpful in advancing our understanding of rangeland conservation in the U.S.?

Two specific reasons: 1) there are well established methods to measure productivity across broad geographies using satellite remote sensing, which removes the need to go out and clip plants on every acre of rangeland; and 2) it is an ecological building block, a measure of the ultimate source of energy for all terrestrial species, and it is a “supporting ecosystem service.” A supporting ecosystem service is one that other ecosystem services depend upon.  Measuring net primary productivity gives a little broader perspective than just forage available for grazing animals.

Ecosystem Services Graphic

Ecosystem service categories as specified by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Examples provided are relevant to rangelands and primary productivity, showing how primary productivity, as a supporting ecosystem service, is foundational for the provisional, regulating, and cultural services on rangelands.

Vegetation production is one of the greatest natural assets we have. Being able to quantify rangeland production across space and through time allows us to assess that resource directly. We can evaluate the impact of our management actions on productivity, to see if those actions are helpful or harmful. We can see how productivity is changing in response to conservation practices, drought, or other factors and then plan appropriately. At broad geographies, we can understand the patterns and trends of productivity and develop local, regional, or national conservation strategies to sustainably manage this asset.


Your study looked at the comparative levels of NPP across public lands (federal, state and local), tribal lands, and private lands. What did you find?

Across the Lower 48, we found that the productivity of privately owned rangelands more than doubled that of public and tribal rangelands. We also found that over the last 25 years, there are no meaningful trends in the change of productivity, regardless of ownership, indicating that rangeland productivity has been stable through the years.

Your results match what a lot of people have assumed over the years – that private rangelands are more productive (as a measure of NPP) than public rangelands. Does this mean that private rangelands are better managed than public ones?  


The distribution for rangelands across the coterminous United States (CONUS) showing the spatial patterns of (a) annual productivity and (b) land ownership. The heavy lines indicate the delineation of western states, Great Plains states, and eastern states.

No, absolutely not. This work does not evaluate the management in any sort of way; it simply looks at the rangeland resource available. Those resources are influenced by a myriad of factors, including precipitation and soil. The patterns of productivity are also a function of how the western U.S. was settled: the more productive lands of the Great Plains were largely privatized, while much of the less productive land in the West incorporated into the federal estate or became tribal lands.

How does knowing the NPP levels for different ownership regimes and geographies help land managers (public or private) better manage rangeland in the U.S.?

Separating out the ownership and geographies really enables us to better understand and execute cross-boundary conservation and management strategies. Knowing that the majority of rangeland productivity is owned and managed privately–by normal, everyday people just like you and me–can help us structure regional and national priorities to implement the right management, in the right place, with the right resources.

And of course, this will vary with location. In regions where public rangeland is dominant and interspersed with private or tribal holdings (e.g., the Intermountain West), cooperation will need to exist to conserve the vast acreage of public rangeland, and the higher productivity of private and tribal rangelands. In other areas where public land is largely absent (e.g., the Great Plains), it will be necessary to focus efforts entirely on private rangeland conservation.

Your team analyzed a huge amount of data about rangeland productivity in the US. Did you find any trends?


a) Total production and (b) average productivity for rangelands across CONUS, 1993–2017. Total production and average productivity are consistently higher on private lands than public and tribal lands. Dashed lines represent mean values through time. Despite noticeable interannual variability, there are no significant temporal trends at the CONUS scale.

The droughts of 2011 and 2012 really stood out. Because the drought was largely in the Great Plains, the productivity of private rangelands took a very noticeable drop compared to public and tribal rangelands. It was fascinating to see it bounce right back though, regardless of ownership, indicating a very resilient system. By analyzing such a large amount of data over such a long time frame, our methods allowed us to easily quantify and illustrate this.

There were also no meaningful trends–up or down–of rangeland productivity over the last 25 years. At this scale, rangeland productivity has been largely stable. There are ups and downs, due to better- or worse-than-average climate years, but things have stayed relatively the same.


Your study points out that maintaining rangeland productivity is about more than simply conserving acreage. Can you explain what you mean?

Conserving large tracts of rangeland is absolutely critical for conservation. That conservation can occur individually with one owner (private, public, or tribal) or through a collection of owners working together. But what our findings show is that acreage alone just doesn’t cut it. The quality of rangeland, not just the size, is equally important. In this case, the quality of rangeland is being assessed through productivity, and size or acreage doesn’t necessarily lead to productivity. It is important that our conservation strategies look at the system as a whole, and that we work cooperatively to conserve the high-quality rangeland.

What does all this mean for public and private land managers and for agencies like the NRCS that can tap into technical and financial resources that help conserve and improve rangeland?

I think it really highlights the importance of partnerships and cross-boundary conservation. That is, we want to work together to conserve the best of what we have, regardless of ownership. The degree of these partnerships will vary based on location. The NRCS works cooperatively with private landowners, public land agencies, and other conservation groups to put the best conservation practices in place.

I think it also highlights the critical aspect of privately owned, working lands conservation. Rangeland productivity is a primary driving force for all the ecosystem services that rangelands provide. The vast majority of that productivity occurs on privately owned rangelands, predominantly in the Great Plains. If we want to maintain those ecosystem services, we need to work directly with landowners to do so.

What is next for the datasets your team created and analyzed through this study?

We are currently putting the final touches on this dataset and plan to make it easily accessible through the Rangeland Analysis Platform (RAP) ( Landowners, managers, and practitioners will be able to use it along with our other datasets to plan and evaluate their management actions. Basically, RAP will provide access to vegetation cover data, productivity data, and more. These datasets will make it more efficient and easier to design and implement projects and to monitor what those projects mean on the ground.

Meet the Expert

How did you get into a career studying rangeland ecology? What drew you to this field of study?

Whew, lots of different things. I really enjoy learning about rangeland dynamics at big, broad scales. I also like that this type of work can be used to improve things on the ground.


Dr. Brady Allred

Why is analyzing huge datasets across time and space so important to advancing the science of rangeland ecology?

I think it is really important to “pick our heads up” and look out across the landscape. It allows us to see and understand things that we commonly miss or look past. When we combine that with the finer scale knowledge we have, we are in a really good position to do the best management and conservation we can.

What do you like to do when you’re not “out on the range?”

I just love spending time with my wife and our four children. That can be exploring Montana, helping a neighbor, running, or eating ice cream together.

You can read the original paper, “Patterns of Rangeland Productivity and Land Ownership: Implications for Conservation and Management” in Ecological Applications here.  Authors: Nathaniel P. Robinson, Brady W. Allred, David E. Naugle, Matthew O. Jones

This work was made possible by the NRCS’s Working Lands for Wildlife effort in support of sage grouse and lesser prairie-chicken conservation and the USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Program.

Pheasants Forever Provides Critical Support for Lesser Prairie-Chicken and Sage Grouse Efforts

Simply put, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) efforts would be far less effective without our network of partners. In the Great Plains and West in particular, the the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative (LPCI) and the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) benefit immensely from these partnerships.

Few WLFW partners have been as important as Pheasants Forever, particularly for LPCI and SGI. Pheasants Forever recently highlighted its cross-species work in two articles in the Spring 2019 Pheasants Forever Journal of Upland Conservation magazine.

Download and read this article to learn how Pheasants Forever works through partnerships like LPCI and SGI.

While it may seem counterintuitive that a group with “pheasants” in its name would work on sage grouse and lesser prairie-chickens, Ron Leathers, PF’s public finance director, explains the group’s motivation:

“We want to be true to our core, but our mission says ‘and other wildlife,’ and we’re thrilled to help other upland gamebirds when we can benefit pheasants and quail too. Our work on prairie chickens and sage grouse creates a lot of crossover that benefits pheasants and quail too.”

One specific example of how Pheasants Forever supports WLFW’s efforts is through the SGI Field Capacity Coordinator position, staffed by Michael Brown. Funding for the position comes from SGI, but Pheasants Forever is Brown’s employer.

In his role, Brown coordinates on-the-ground conservation through a network of staff who work directly with ranchers and producers to implement projects. This can help build trust with producers who may not want to work directly with the federal government by allowing them to work with an NGO to access resources and assistance provided by NRCS. Brown explains the benefits:

“If producers don’t want to work with the federal government, for whatever reason, they don’t have to. In my experience, we’ve found that people are more willing to work with Pheasants Forever at the beginning because we’re not the government, even though the work might be funded by federal dollars. Then they choose to work with us on subsequent phases of a project because they see that we get work done efficiently and comprehensively.”

Download and read this article to learn more about how Pheasants Forever is helping numerous upland gamebirds, including lesser prairie-chickens.

This approach is precisely why SGI and LPCI have been able to work with thousands of producers to benefit millions of acres of habitat for lesser prairie-chickens, sage grouse, and other wildlife.

Download the stories to read more about how Pheasants Forever plays a key role in benefiting working lands for ranchers, communities, and wildlife. Be sure to check out Pheasants Forever’s website to learn more about this key WLFW partner.

WEBINAR: Mapping Cross-Scale Transitions in Rangelands


Mapping Cross-Scale Transitions in Rangelands


Join NRCS Working Lands for Wildlife researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Montana for this webinar. Learn how new technological innovations in rangeland monitoring are allowing unprecedented tracking of vegetation response to wildfires, brush management, and drought.

This hour-long webinar is focused utilizing the powerful new Rangeland Analysis Platform in the Great Plains ecosystem to improve rangeland management.

The Rangeland Analysis Platform (RAP) is a new mapping technology that allows for the tracking of vegetation change at unprecedented scales in both space (United States rangelands from the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean at a 30-m resolution) and time (annually from 1984–present). The RAP is free, readily available online, and developed for use by landowners and natural resource managers to track vegetation through time and plan actions to improve America’s grazing lands.

The RAP can be used to inform strategies to improve productivity of grazing lands, manage weeds, mitigate impacts of wildfire and drought, and benefit wildlife habitats. Powered by Google Earth Engine, RAP merges machine learning and cloud-based computing with remote sensing and field data to provide the first-ever annual cover maps of rangeland vegetation. This new platform, when combined with local knowledge, allows users to better understand vegetation change through time and to aid in conservation planning and outcome evaluation. This webinar provides an overview of the innovative breakthrough in the monitoring of rangeland vegetation and examples of how the technology is being applied to advance key missions of existing science-agency-landowner partnerships in the Great Plains.


(No pre-registration required)


  • Dr. Dirac Twidwell, Associate Professor of Rangeland Ecology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE.
  • Dr. Brady Allred, Associate Professor, Rangeland Ecologist, University of Montana, Missoula, MT
  • Dr. Matthew Jones, Research Scientist, University of Montana, Missoula, MT

CEU Credits / Certifications offered:

  • Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) – 1 hour SER-CERP Credit   [credits applied for]
  • Society for Range Management (SRM) – 1 hour SRM Credit   [credits applied for]
  • Certified Crop Advisors (CCA) – 1 hour CCA – CM Credit
  • Certificate of Participation

Meet the “New” West Working Lands for Wildlife communications team: Brianna Randall and Greg Peters

Without Telling Our Story, It’s Just a Bunch of Work

This post is from Tim Griffiths, West Working Lands for Wildlife Coordinator. Tim wanted to take a moment to formally introduce Brianna Randall and Greg M. Peters, two members of the Working Lands for Wildlife team focused on communications.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife conservation effort focuses on getting strategically targeted conservation on the ground, working directly with private landowners to make lands and habitats more productive across the country. In the West, much of our work focuses on conserving the working sagebrush rangelands of the Intermountain West and the productive prairies of the southern Great Plains. Although sage grouse and lesser prairie-chicken benefit greatly from this work, so do hundreds of other species, including people.

We are proud of the landscape-scale conservation work accomplished in these landscapes over the past decade, work that’s good for the bird and good for the herd. Can you believe that these Working Lands for Wildlife partnerships (through the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) and Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI)) have teamed up with more than 2,650 ranches to conserve 8.6 million acres? That’s simply incredible! Perhaps even more impressive however are the personal and unique stories behind those statistics.

The NRCS’s Working Lands for Wildlife effort focuses on many wildlife species, including lesser prairie-chicken and sage grouse.

Without a solid communications program that captures and shares these amazing success stories, the numbers are just that – numbers. We need to continually share the personal side of these win-win stories and highlight the innovative new science that’s helping us be both more efficient and effective at delivering conservation. Through this sustained outreach, we’ll continually increase conservation of working western landscapes.

Over the years, we’ve had a few different folks helping our Natural Resources Conservation Service public affairs professionals with communications for both SGI and LPCI.

This year, we’re excited to introduce a team of communicators who will help take Working Lands for Wildlife, and especially LPCI and SGI, communications to a new level.

Brianna Randall may be familiar to folks who have followed SGI over the past several years. She’s been the communications coordinator for SGI since 2015. In that time, she’s helped highlight our successful science-based conservation work in sagebrush country by writing and publishing stories about incredible ranchers and partnerships who have stepped up to make a difference for working lands and wildlife. She’s also helped capture and share the resulting benefits for the wildlife.

Brianna Randall behind the camera at the 2017 Sage Grouse Initiative Workshop in Gunnison, CO.

Fortunately, Brianna is continuing to work on with the Working Lands for Wildlife team as a writer, producing the same compelling content she’s been generating for years. Only now, her geography has expanded to include the landscapes of the southern Great Plains. We’re thrilled to have Brianna continue writing about proactive conservation on western rangelands.

We’re equally excited to introduce a new addition to the team. Please help us in welcoming Greg M. Peters as our new Working Lands for Wildlife communications coordinator. Greg will be taking over much of the day-to-day communications for SGI and LPCI and will manage our website, social media accounts, and develop content in coordination with Brianna and all our excellent NRCS public affairs leads. Greg will be re-energizing our communications as well by developing and sharing new stories. Stay tuned for more content in the coming weeks as Greg gets fully up to speed.

Greg Peters is the new WLFW communications coordinator focused on LPCI and SGI.

Please join us in welcoming Greg and Brianna in their new roles. They are both excited to continue sharing news about the partners, landowners, and science-based conservation practices that are helping improve the Great Plains and sagebrush country. If you have ideas or opportunities, please let us know!

You can reach Brianna Randall at

You can reach Greg Peters at