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What to Do About the Greater Sage-Grouse


Dachin N. Frances
Department of Biology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Sanja Hinić-Frlog
Department of Biology
University of Toronto at Mississauga


The federal governments in Canada and the United States have adopted vastly different positions regarding the conservation status of the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). This international issue provides students an opportunity to examine the complex interplay between biological and economic factors surrounding conservation policy development. The students act out the roles of either conservation groups interested in conserving the species and its habitat, or corporations that require land or resources currently used by the greater sage-grouse. Students must research and then defend their stakeholder's stance on whether or not the bird should receive protections. When fully implemented, the case study takes place over the course of a semester; however any combination of the three subunits may also be used.  The activities would fit well in an upper-division undergraduate conservation biology or ornithology class, or adapted for a larger, sophomore-level ecology class.


  • Identify and summarize a stakeholder's viewpoints on the conservation status of the greater sage-grouse.
  • Connect a stakeholder's viewpoints and their relevance to greater-sage grouse population management and conservation.
  • Critically analyze and synthesize greater sage-grouse conservation viewpoints by various stakeholders with a wide spectrum of economically and biologically grounded mandates.
  • Defend and argue on behalf of a stakeholder's viewpoints related to management and conservation of the species using non-technical, informed, logical and scientific arguments.
  • Propose a new management protocol that re-evaluates the global conservation status of the species by amalgamating relevant local and international biological and economic factors.


Greater sage-grouse; conservation; sagebrush; risk; population; Species at Risk Act; SARA; USFWS; Endangered Species Act; ESA

Topical Areas

Ethics, Policy issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division


PDF, PowerPoint

Type / Methods

Debate, Public Hearing, Role-Play



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Ecology  |   Interdisciplinary Sciences  |   Wildlife Management  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

The PowerPoint presentation below provides background on the greater sage-grouse.

  sage_grouse.pptx (~5 MB)


The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • Body-Popping Sage-Grouse
    This preview of Episode 1 of Nature’s Greatest Dancers shows courtship behavior at a lek. Running time: 2:37 min. Produced by BBC One, 2015.