Habitat & Conservation  |  03/22/2024

The BOSH Project Celebrates Six Years of Progress Improving Sagebrush Habitat


Ambitious project has 60,000-acre goal for 2024

By Mikayla Peper

Entering its sixth year of collaboration, the Bruneau-Owyhee Sage-grouse Habitat (BOSH) Project is an initiative to clear encroaching trees from sagebrush habitat in southwestern Idaho. This has been no small task, which as of today has impacted 140,000 acres of habitat. 

The project’s focus is on removing encroaching juniper trees to provide better habitat quality and quantity for the Greater Sage-Grouse. The impact of conifer encroachment on Sage-Grouse has been well documented, and scientific communities agree that Sage-Grouse avoid areas with more than 4% conifer cover, causing a devastating decline in their population. Research has shown conifer encroachment is the second leading threat to sagebrush habitat following invasive annual plants such as cheatgrass. Addressing this threat also benefits other upland bird species such as chukar partridge, gray partridge and valley quail. Several iconic western wildlife species also depend on sagebrush for cover and grazing such as mule deer, pronghorn antelope and songbirds. 

Having so many trees in the area has also depleted the local water supply. Since this project began, local ranchers have noticed the rising level of water sources and the improvements in pasture quality for cattle to graze. 

“This project is on a much bigger scale than anything else that has been attempted for juniper removal in the West,” said Connor White, BOSH Project Coordinator for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We have a robust group of amazing partners and I’m incredibly proud of our efforts to improve habitat so far, but there is so much more to come.”

In short, 140,000 acres out of a possible 617,000 has been treated so far. Nearly 45,000 acres were treated in 2023, making it the most accomplished year for the project since it began in 2019. Looking forward to 2024, a lofty goal of 60,000 acres is planned. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will run their own contracts, but Pheasants Forever will also play a key role in reaching such an ambitious acreage goal. Pheasants Forever’s team will hire additional contractors to tackle more acres by utilizing grant funding from BLM, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Pittman-Robertson funds from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Gaining access to additional funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has also been instrumental in scaling up this project, since the majority of regular BLM funds have previously been directed toward other projects in the area.

“We’re doing all of the acres we can with the funding available to us right now,” White said. “In the first few years of the project funding was competitive, so we focused on lightly encroached lands, but now we have the resources to tackle larger portions of the project we weren’t able to do before.” 

This project is made possible by the collaboration of many partners alongside Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. This includes the Boise District Bureau of Land Management, Owyhee and Bruneau Field Offices of the Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Lands, Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

To learn more about the BOSH Project and what this means for the future of sagebrush habitat in Idaho, check out the Partners in the Sage website which provides a story map of the project. 

For additional questions, reach out to Connor White at cwhite@pheasantsforever.org or 208-384-3300. 

Mikayla Peper is the media relations specialist at Pheasants Forever. She can be reached at mpeper@pheasantsforever.org