COS 77-4
A bird’s eye view of western juniper management: Assessing multi-objective policies for sage-grouse habitat conservation and rangeland productivity

Wednesday, August 13, 2014: 2:30 PM
Regency Blrm B, Hyatt Regency Hotel
Shahla Farzan, Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
Derek J.N. Young, Dept. of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
Allison G. Dedrick, Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
Matthew L. Hamilton, Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
Erik C. Porse, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
Peter S. Coates, Western Ecological Research Center, Dixon Field Station, U.S. Geological Survey, Dixon, CA
Gabriel Sampson, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA

In California, Oregon, and Nevada, the expansion of western juniper into sagebrush steppe ecosystems affects both wildlife and agricultural livelihoods. Juniper expansion affects greater sage-grouse by reducing sagebrush cover and the associated plants and insects that comprise the birds’ diet. Juniper expansion also substantially limits forage production and consequently the viability of cattle production in sagebrush steppe ecosystems. Potential listing of the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act has spurred a decade of juniper removal efforts designed, in principal, to benefit both cattle production and sage-grouse conservation. However, limited empirical research has evaluated the degree to which these goals may be simultaneously addressed. We used a multi-objective spatially-explicit model to identify optimal configurations of juniper removal sites on the Modoc Plateau (Northeastern California, Northwestern Nevada, and Southeastern Oregon) across the dual weighted management goals of sage-grouse habitat conservation and cattle forage production. By comparing benefits resulting from each relative weighting of goals, we assessed the complementarity of the two goals. We additionally modified the model to account for limited coordination capacity among land managers, potential sale of juniper wood chips to offset treatment costs, the use of prescribed burning as a juniper removal method, and variable budget constraints.


We found that sage-grouse conservation and forage production goals are somewhat complementary, but the degree of complementarity in benefits depends on spatial factors and management approaches. While juniper removal efforts that prioritize sage-grouse habitat conservation also increase forage production, prioritizing forage production only yields small improvements in sage-grouse habitat. Juniper removal efforts designed to benefit ranching do not necessarily also benefit safe-grouse. We found that lack of coordination between major land managers substantially decreases potential benefits from juniper removal. While the sale of juniper wood chips for biomass production does not lower juniper removal costs enough to significantly increase forage production and sage-grouse conservation benefits, we found that using prescribed burning to remove juniper substantially increases potential benefits. In varying the budget constraint, we did not observe differences in the complementarity of management objectives. We conclude that juniper removal efforts must be explicitly designed to meet multiple goals, since prioritization determines the range of shared benefits. We also conclude that institutional arrangements, management approaches, spatial design, and budget constraints have significant effects on the potential benefits of juniper removal efforts for any given relative weighting of management objectives.