Cooperative Sagebrush Initiative

The Cooperative Sagebrush Initiative (CSI) operated from 2006 through 2013.  It is, to this day, the only range-wide attempt to unite a broad coalition of western land users to conserve and restore the sagebrush ecosystem across portions of 11 western states.  The group galvanized around proactive alternatives to extreme environmental groups that were petitioning to list species like the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). CSI developed an innovative agenda for implementing cooperative conservation through partnerships, good science, and incentives. Building from the credibility of its membership, linked to expertise in land management, industrial development, and policy, CSI helped to advance a better way of doing business in the sagebrush biome.  While CSI formally disbanded in late 2013, today nearly all of the ideas advanced by CSI are being adopted in one form or another.

CSI Accomplishments

  • CSI remains the only organization to attempt to unite all the major land uses across 66 million acres of public and private land in the U.S. West.
  • CSI has formulated conservation strategies that address the needs of landowners, public ranchers, energy and power industries, mining concerns, western states, conservation groups, and many others.
  • CSI identified and provided credible support for landscape scale demonstration projects that advanced the scientific and operational understanding of restoration.
  • CSI is facilitated communication and awareness of funding, partnerships, and technical assistance among sage-grouse local working groups throughout the west.
  • CSI led the way toward regulatory assurances for landowners, states, and industry.
  • CSI developed and tested a sagebrush habitat credit system designed to reward verifiable conservation practices and provide a reliable bank of mitigation opportunities for landowners, industry, states, and others.
  • CSI was endorsed by national agriculture groups, the Western Governors Association, highlighted as a top collaborative effort in a GAO report, and was awarded the 2007 Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commissions environmental stewardship award.

Market-Based Approach for Restoring Rangelands and Critical Wildlife Habitat in the Sagebrush Biome

February 2011 Interim Report – By Jon Haufler and Tom Esgate

CSI initiated this project in order to develop and evaluate a metric system for mitigation in sagebrush ecosystems and to further evaluate the potential for development of a mitigation credit trading system based on the metrics. The proposed metric system relied on the use of ecological sites as classified and described by the Natural Resource Conservation Service as a basis for assuring equivalency of sagebrush ecosystems and ecosystem services. The system also used an evaluation of wildlife habitats to evaluate equivalency of benefits and impacts at landscape scales.

The project is partially funded by a 2008 NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) and pilot tested as seven sites across the sagebrush biome.

Read the full report…