• Greater Sage-Grouse and Range Management: Insights from a 25-Year Case Study in Utah and Wyoming

      Dahlgren, D. K.; Larsen, R. T.; Danvir, R.; Wilson, G.; Thacker, E. T.; Black, T. A.; Naugle, D. E.; Connelly, J. W.; Messmer, T. A. (Society for Range Management, 2015-09)
      Conservation of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) systems is one of the most difficult and pressing concerns in western North America. Sagebrush obligates, such as greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter sagegrouse), have experienced population declines as sagebrush systems have degraded. Science-based management is crucial to improve certainty in range management practices. Although large-scale implementation of management regimens within an experimental design is difficult, long-term case studies provide opportunities to improve learning and develop and refine hypotheses. We used 25 years of data across three large landscapes in northern Utah and southwestern Wyoming to assess sage-grouse population change and corresponding land management differences in a case study design. Sage-grouse lek counts at our Deseret Land and Livestock (DLL) study site increased relative to surrounding populations in correspondence with the implementation of small-acreage sagebrush treatments designed to reduce shrub cover and increase herbaceous understory within a prescriptive grazing management framework. The higher lek counts were sustained for nearly 15 years. However, with continued sagebrush treatments and the onset of adverse winter conditions, DLL lek counts declined to levels consistent with surrounding areas. During summer, DLL sage-grouse broods used plots of small, treated sagebrush mosaics more than untreated reference sites. We hypothesize that sagebrush treatments on DLL increased availability of grasses and forbs to sagegrouse, similar to other studies, but that cumulative annual reductions in sagebrush may have reduced availability of sagebrush cover for sage-grouse seasonal needs at DLL, especially when extreme winter weather occurred. © 2015 The Authors.