W506: Using Science-Based Solutions in Conservation of Threatened and Endangered Species: Sage-Grouse Case Study

(Rapid Response to Emerging Issue Activity)

Status: Active

W506: Using Science-Based Solutions in Conservation of Threatened and Endangered Species: Sage-Grouse Case Study

Duration: 10/01/2015 to 10/01/2017

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Species of plants and animals are nominated for consideration of Threatened or Endangered Status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. “Endangered” means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. “Threatened” means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. All species of plants and animals, except pest insects, are eligible for listing as endangered or threatened. For the purposes of the ESA, Congress defined species to include subspecies, varieties, and, for vertebrates, distinct population segments. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which shares responsibility for administration of the ESA) were directed under the Interagency Policy on Information Standards under the ESA (FR Doc. 94-16022; http://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/policy-information-standards.html) to make decisions that represent the best scientific and commercial data available. Researchers at land-grant universities may be conducting research on different aspects of the species under consideration. There is the possibility that researchers at the same or different institutions may come to different conclusions because research is conducted in different systems or because the hypothesis being tested resulted in different methods or assumptions. These differing conclusions may lead to confusion from the public, stakeholders, and the agencies during determinations. We propose to examine a process whereby researchers can be brought together to examine underlying research assumptions, resolve issues of scale and applicability across the range of a species, and come to scientific consensus on how to interpret the data from multiple locations.

The Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a species currently under consideration for listing under the ESA. Greater sage-grouse are found in sagebrush habitats in 11 western states. For these reasons, we propose to use it as a case study of a process. The USFWS decision on this species will likely be made by September 15, 2015, prior to this committee being functional. Regardless of the future status of this species, states and landowners will need to use the best available science and management knowledge to manage the species. The results of this case study can therefore be used as a model for how land-grant university scientists can address complex questions when there is both a wealth of peer reviewed information and many unanswered questions across the range of a species.

This activity will address Goals 1, 2, and 4 of the Western Perspective. During the Western Region Joint Summer Meeting, July 6-9, 2015, the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (WAAESD) identified this activity as the highest priority on which to move forward. It will also further many of the activities listed in the Western Agenda.

Types of Activities

A select committee composed of ecologists, biologists, economists, geneticists, and sociologists will be invited to participate in a process of finding how best to provide diverse scientific knowledge to potential threatened and endangered species. Drafts will be presented to key stakeholders for input.


  1. To develop a process for scientist collaboration on assessing the best available science related to threatened and endangered species. This includes our ability: a. To understand the existing process for submitting science to the USFWS. b. To understand how land-grant universities are currently engaged in the process of ESA determinations. c. To find how land-grant universities can better engage in the process. d. To recommend how the process can be improved.
  2. To document the process for scientist collaboration on assessing the best available science related to threatened and endangered species.
  3. To integrate ecological, biological, economic, and social information to inform decision-makers.

Expected Outputs, Outcomes and/or Impacts

Outputs are expected to be reports that address the process of scientific collaboration from diverse disciplines and an assessment of research findings produced by land-grant university scientists and students. Outcomes are expected to be a roadmap for future collaborative efforts across the western U.S. and to make land-grant university research useful to our stakeholders. Impacts are expected to have land-grant university research used in affecting decisions regarding threatened or endangered species.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Literature Cited


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Northwest Biotechnology Company, Stockton University
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