Secrets of the Sagebrush Sea


Did you know that the Sublette County Conservation District has partnered with Sublette BOCES to present Conservation Conversations again this year? Well, its true!

This year, we decided to try a little something different, where we present once a month over the lunch hour to bring you interesting facts about our natural resources here in Sublette County! These have all be “virtual” meetings over Microsoft Teams and are recorded for you to go back and catch up.

Since I know it’s spring and many of you were outside enjoying the nice weather during the “Secrets of the Sagebrush Sea” conversation, I wanted to highlight for you some of the really cool things about sagebrush in Sublette County. Oftentimes, we can overlook our rangelands as a monotonous sea of sagebrush, but sagebrush can really tell us a lot about the landscape!

Did you know that there are more than 13 sagebrush species in Wyoming? And many of them grow here in Sublette County! Species such as Wyoming big sagebrush, mountain big sagebrush, black sagebrush and early sagebrush are just a few that dot our landscape. And what about the typical sagebrush smell? Have you ever noticed after a fresh rain, the pungent smell of sagebrush? This is due to the elevated content of aromatic turpentines found within the sagebrush plant. The leaves are generally a gray-green color and are typically wedge-shaped with three tips at the end.

How about a few more fun facts? Well, sagebrush can have a taproot that grows as deep as 13 feet and the plant itself can provide a home for insects, which burrow into the stems and form a gall. Sagebrush can survive over 100 years in our native landscapes!

All that aside, different species of sagebrush grow in different environments. Some sagebrush like drier climates and others like wetter climates. Some sagebrush species like a lot of clay and others prefer calcium carbonates or salts.

Did you know that total plant community production in mountain big sagebrush plant communities can be up to 1,000 pounds/acre more than our Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities? These are just a few examples of how sagebrush can tell us a little bit more about other land characteristics.

Lastly, sagebrush is a catalyst for diversity on our landscapes. Sagebrush helps to keep moisture on the landscape by capturing snow; it can provide cover for various animal species such as pygmy rabbits and greater sage-grouse and it can also protect understory grasses and forbs from herbivory, keeping the seedbank plentiful for plant community resilience.

Not only that, but sagebrush provides a vital food source for our mule deer and pronghorn antelope populations in the winter. Sagebrush landscapes not only provide a great place to recreate but have an important role in our ecosystem health.

To dig a bit deeper into identification of sagebrush species or to watch the entire “Secrets of the Sagebrush Sea” presentation, head on over to this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3AxLHr1pTU.

Our staff work hard to put these outreach materials together for your enjoyment and learning capabilities. If you want to catch up easily, all of our Conservation Conversations are recorded and available on our website at https://www.sublettecd.com/conservation-conversations.

Also, you can join us for our last Conservation Conversation on May 19, when Melanie Purcell highlights how conservation planning can help landowners get conservation on the ground!

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