Best Habitat Conditions for Greater Sage-grouse

Although much smaller than Wyoming’s large, migrating wildlife, Greater Sage-grouse still need big, well-connected swaths of habitat in order to survive and thrive. That was the main finding of a new study from researchers with The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming and Audubon Rockies.

Lander, WY | January 10, 2018

The study focused on Wyoming since the largest populations of sage-grouse reside in the Cowboy State and the state will continue to play a critical role in the long-term survival of the species. 

Joined by scientists from the University of Waterloo and Yellowstone Ecological Research Center, researchers studied what conditions led to success or failure of the species within the state’s Sage-grouse “core areas.” These core areas, and the resulting management plans, are the product of years of negotiation among a unique coalition of stakeholders that included ranchers, the energy industry, scientists and conservation groups. But, this past summer, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered a new review of these carefully-crafted plans, putting their implementation on hold. 

From 2006 to 2013, the researchers examined the relationship between sage-grouse population numbers and both ecological and human characteristics surrounding leks. They looked at factors such as roads, houses, oil and gas development, cities and wind farms. That helped them evaluate what landscape-scale conditions are needed to sustain sage-grouse over the long term.

 The study found that larger sage-grouse populations were located in larger, more centrally-located core areas. That confirmed the importance of maintaining large connected landscapes to ensure sage-grouse populations can remain viable. It also suggests that clustering development and limiting the number of both paved and unpaved roads will reduce negative impacts. This information can be used, in combination with local-scale assessments, to piece together a more complete picture of what kind of habitat conditions sage-grouse need for their long-term survival. 

To learn more about the study you can read the publication – Landscape-scale habitat assessment for an imperiled avian species – in the upcoming Fall issue of Animal Conservation.  

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Bebe Crouse


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