Encroachment of Great Plains grasslands by fire-sensitive woody plants is a large-scale, regional process that fragments grassland landscapes. Using prairie grouse (Tympanuchus spp.) of conservation concern, we apply hierarchy theory to demonstrate how regional processes constrain lower-level processes and reduce the success of local management. For example, fire and grazing management may be locally important to conservation, but the application of fire and grazing disturbances rarely cause irreversible fragmentation of grasslands in the Great Plains. These disturbance processes cause short-term alterations in vegetation conditions that can be positive or negative, but from a long-term perspective fire maintains large tracts of continuous rangelands by limiting woody plant encroachment. Conservation efforts for prairie grouse should be focused on landscape processes that contribute to landscape fragmentation, such as increased dominance of trees or conversion to other land uses. In fact, reliance on local management (e.g., maintaining vegetation structure) to alter prairie grouse vital rates is less important to grouse population persistence given contemporary landscape level changes. Changing grass height, litter depth, or increasing the cover of forbs may impact a few remaining prairie-chickens, but it will not create useable space at a scale relevant to the historic conditions that existed before land conversion and fire suppression.