The sagebrush-steppe ecosystem covers much of western North America, and its productivity is sensitive to warming and increasingly variable precipitation. Interannual variation in precipitation has been shown to be the most significant factor controlling biogeochemical cycling while both soil and atmospheric drought are dominant factors of ecosystem fluxes. We show that plant canopies can also act to limit water losses through stomatal and aerodynamic control. We use 4 data-yr from 2 sites (2 069 and 2 469 m above sea level elevation, respectively) to evaluate control of carbon and water fluxes and to calculate the degree to which the ecosystem canopy and atmosphere are decoupled. Environmental conditions were similar between the two sites, although the lower elevation site was slightly warmer (1.8°C higher temperature) and drier (0.2 kPa higher vapor pressure deficit). Ecosystem responses of net ecosystem exchange (NEE) and evapotranspiration (ET) to environmental drivers were similar between sites and years, with the wet site-yr 2009 having the largest ET and NEE fluxes. Canopy leaf area led to divergent behavior of the canopy-atmosphere decoupling parameter under high (> 11% by volume) soil moisture conditions. During low (< 11%) soil moisture periods, both sites had tight ecosystem stomatal control on ET with little NEE activity. This study highlights how semiarid ecosystems can alter their canopy leaf area in order to control how decoupled semi-arid canopies are to the atmosphere, potentially moderating impacts of climate change.