We investigated habitat selection by 28 male greater sage-grouse during each of 3 years after a 113,000-ha wildfire in a sagebrush steppe ecosystem in Idaho and Oregon. During the study period, seeding and herbicide treatments were applied for habitat restoration. We evaluated sage-grouse responses to vegetation and post-fire restoration treatments. Throughout the 3 years post-fire, sage-grouse avoided areas with high exotic annual grass cover but selected strongly for recovering sagebrush and moderately strongly for perennial grasses. By the third year post-fire, they preferred high-density sagebrush, especially in winter when sagebrush is the primary component of the sage-grouse diet. Sage-grouse preferred forb habitat immediately post-fire, especially in summer, but this selection preference was less strong in later years. They also selected areas that were intensively treated with herbicide and seeded with sagebrush, grasses, and forbs, although these responses varied with time since treatment.
Description: Effects of juniper encroachment and removal on multiple wildlife species in the Steens Mountains area and quantifying effects of grazing on sagebrush ecosystems and associated wildlife.
Presenter: Vanessa Schroeder is a faculty research assistant at Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center-Burns, which is in the heart of Oregons’s sagebrush country. She holds a master’s degree in Wildlife Science from OSU.
This Science for Resource Managers tool provides online, searchable access to multiple published annotated bibliographies on priority management topics for resource managers, currently focused primarily on issues relevant to lands in the western U.S.
View the brief.
Katherine Zeller, a research biologist with the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute housed within the Rocky Mountain Research Station, was part of a team of researchers who created a series of species distribution models to determine whether this concern was warranted. “What we wanted to know is how these conifer treatments might affect a greater suite of species,” she explains. “Not just the sage grouse but these other species of conservation concern.”
USGS will hold a Bi-State Sage-Grouse Science Symposium. This virtual symposium will highlight the research, science, and management tools that support sage-grouse monitoring and conservation efforts in the Bi-State area of California and Nevada. Pete Coates and Western Ecological Research Center staff members will present information on:
- Population trends for greater sage-grouse within the Bi-State DPS and across sage-grouse range
- Seasonal and life-stage mapping of sage-grouse habitat in the Bi-State DPS
- Sage-grouse response to wildfire
- Impacts of increases of feral horse and common raven populations on sage-grouse populations
- Lessons learned from sage-grouse translocation efforts
- A targeted annual warning system to inform adaptive management of sage-grouse populations
- Efficacy of conservation efforts to improve sage-grouse population performance within the Bi-State DPS
View technical note.
The threat-based model approach uses simplified ecosystem models to identify and map primary threats and determine potential management interventions. The study team found that the threat-based model supported the findings from the BLM’s land health evaluation for the O’Keeffe allotment. The threat-based model approach offered another line of evidence in assessing upland standards. It also proved to be a valuable tool for communicating with stakeholders, as it provided a spatial depiction of habitat condition and threats through maps and a framework to link threats to management actions. The BLM needs to further apply and study this methodology, but there is potential to use the threat-based model to streamline the land health evaluation process and provide a consistent assessment framework across public and private lands.
Sage-grouse increasingly selected areas closer to conifer removals and were 26% more likely to use removal areas each year after removal. Sage-grouse were most likely to select areas where conifer cover had been reduced by ≤10%. The proportion of available locations having a high relative probability of use increased from 5% to 31% between 2011 and 2017 in the treatment area and locations with the lowest relative probability of use decreased from 57% to 21% over the same period. Dynamics in relative probability of use at available locations in the control area were stochastic or stable and did not demonstrate clear temporal trends relative to the treatment area. Targeted conifer removal is an effective tool for increasing usable space for sage-grouse during the breeding season and for restoring landscapes affected by conifer expansion.
The encroachment of pinyon-juniper woodlands into sagebrush habitat in the Great Basin Ecoregion of the western USA, represents a potential source of habitat degradation for sagebrush-associated wildlife species. To restore sagebrush habitat, managers are conducting large-scale conifer removal efforts within the Great Basin, particularly within Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) priority areas for conservation. Such largescale habitat modification efforts may result in unintended ecological trade-offs for wildlife. To investigate these trade-offs, we used community science data to develop species distribution models for two sagebrush and three pinyon-juniper associated bird species of conservation concern in the Great Basin. We evaluated the predictive performance of our models with an independent dataset of presence locations derived from systematic monitoring programs. We then simulated conifer removal across the Great Basin and mapped habitat gains and losses for our study species. Despite differing land cover associations, 31%-51% of suitable habitat for our study species coincided with Greater Sage-Grouse priority areas for conservation. Our conifer removal scenario increased suitable habitat by 6%-17% for sagebrush associates and reduced habitat by 11%-41% for pinyon-juniper associates. We identified areas of the Great Basin where conifer removal expanded habitat for sagebrush associates without concurrent habitat loss for pinyon-juniper associates. Our results provide guidance for conducting vegetation management in the Great Basin while addressing the habitat needs for multiple focal species. Our methods, which use freely available community science data and geospatial layers, can easily be transferred to other species and ecoregions.
Workshop webpage and registration.
The Western Agencies Sage and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Workshop is a biennial meeting held in even numbered years sanctioned by WAFWA. The workshop provides a forum where leading sage and sharp-tailed grouse managers and researchers share research results, management strategies, and emerging issues in the realms of grouse management throughout North America. The 33rd Sage and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Workshop will be hosted by Utah on August 15-18th, 2022 in Logan, Utah on the Utah State University Inn and Conference Center.