Gunnison Sage-grouse Ecology, San Juan County Utah
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Gunnison Sage-grouse Ecology, San Juan County Utah . Sarah G. Lupis, Sharon Ward, and Terry A. Messmer Utah State University Extension, Jack H. Berryman Institute, & Utah’s Community-Based Conservation Program. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Bureau of Land Management

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Gunnison Sage-grouse Ecology, San Juan County Utah

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Gunnison Sage-grouse Ecology, San Juan County Utah

Sarah G. Lupis, Sharon Ward, and Terry A. Messmer

Utah State University Extension, Jack H. Berryman Institute, & Utah’s Community-Based Conservation Program


Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Bureau of Land Management

Utah State University

San Juan County Extension Office

Guy Wallace

Dean Mitchell

Tammy Wallace

Doug Christiansen

Don Andrews

Fischer the dog…and others!


  • San Juan County Gunnison Sage-grouse Local Working Group (SWOG) identified the need to maintain and/or increase acreage of CRP in SJC

  • In 1998, SJC was designated a “priority conservation area” because of Gunnison Sage-grouse

  • 21,600 acres currently enrolled

  • Needed to evaluate the value of CRP

  • Little known about seasonal habitat use


Study Area


Study Area

Concentrated Use Zone

Conservation Reserve Program

Grazed CRP


Objectives

  • What are important seasonal habitats?

  • Do Gunnison Sage-grouse use CRP?

  • Does CRP help to achieve desired vegetation conditions?

  • What is the response of Gunnison Sage-grouse to the emergency grazing of some CRP fields?


  • In June 2002, a drought emergency was declared for SJC

  • Precipitation was 40% below normal


  • Some CRP was opened to emergency grazing due to drought conditions

  • Emergency grazing substituted for regular, required maintenance of CRP


Grazing Debate…briefly

  • Destruction of sagebrush by bedding livestock

  • Deterioration of wet meadow habitat

  • Trampled eggs

  • Abandoned nests

Beck and Mitchell 2000


Grazing Debate…briefly

  • Destruction of sagebrush by bedding livestock

  • Deterioration of wet meadow habitat

  • Trampled eggs

  • Abandoned nests

  • Stimulated forb growth

Beck and Mitchell 2000


Grazing Debate…briefly

  • Destruction of sagebrush by bedding livestock

  • Deterioration of wet meadow habitat

  • Trampled eggs

  • Abandoned nests

  • Simulated forb growth

In general, little empirical evidence about sage-grouse responses to grazing.

Beck and Mitchell 2000


  • Monitored 41 Gunnison Sage-grouse in 2001-2004

  • Located birds 3 times a week

  • Nests were considered successful if 1 egg hatched; broods were considered successful if 1 chick survived to 50 days post-hatch


Use of CRP

  • Defined a “concentrated use zone” that encompassed all bird locations

    • Considered to be “available” for all radio-collared birds

  • 31% CRP

Manley et al. 2002


Bird Use Sites

  • Percent cover of grasses, forbs, and shrubs using a Daubenmire frame every 2 meters.

Daubenmire 1959


Use of CRP

  • 14/19 hens nested (6)

  • 40% nests in CRP

  • 4 successful broods

  • 73% of brood locations in CRP


Moose Peterson

Use of CRP

  • 74% male locations in CRP

  • 49% broodless hen locations in CRP


Use of CRP

  • Sample size small but, given small population size, still somewhat representative

  • Use of CRP high (48.5%, 73.8%, 72.9%)

  • Use of CRP not significant (χ2, P 0.05) for nesting, brood-rearing, males, or broodless hens during this study


Bird Use Sites

  • CRP sites used by Gunnison Sage-grouse partially met rangewide guidelines.

Gunnison Sage-grouse Rangewide Steering Committee 2005


Landscape Scale Habitat Use

  • CRP likely provides roosting cover and food resources

    • Alfalfa, dandelions, and other forbs

    • Insects


Emergency Grazing

NRCS 2002


Emergency Grazing

  • Evaluated movement patters of radio-collared birds in area open to emergency grazing

    • 3 males

    • 2 broodless hens

    • 1 hen with a brood


Emergency Grazing

Radio-collared Males

  • 42.8% (18/42) locations were in CRP prior to grazing

  • During grazing, use of CRP decreased

    • 18.2% of locations (2/11) in Field 1

    • 37.5% of locations (3/8) in Field 4

    • No locations in Field 2 or 3


Emergency Grazing

Radio-collared

Broodless Hens

  • 56.0% (14/25) locations were in CRP prior to grazing

  • During grazing, use of CRP decreased

    • 8.3% of locations (1/12) in Field 1

    • 5.3% of locations (1/19) in Field 2

    • No locations in Field 3 or 4


Before Emergency Grazing

During and After Emergency Grazing

Emergency Grazing

  • Hen and brood did not exhibit avoidance

  • 50% of locations in CRP before grazing

  • 72.7% (8/11) locations in CRP during and after grazing.


Emergency Grazing

  • Vegetation at brood use sites prior to and during/after emergency grazing.

    • Less grass cover

    • Less shrub cover

    • Greater forb cover

    • Similar litter cover


Emergency Grazing

  • Most radio-collared birds showed some avoidance of grazed CRP

  • Hen with a brood was most tolerant

  • Some indication that brood use shifted from grass to shrub dominated as grasses were reduced

  • Returned to grazed fields in subsequent years


Winter Habitat Use

  • 29 birds monitored during 2002-2004 winters

  • Most locations in black sagebrush and (52%) big sagebrush/CRP (25%)

  • Home range less than 4 sq. km

  • Flock size 2-30 plus birds


Conclusions

  • CRP in San Juan County provides crucial breeding and summer habitat for Gunnison Sage-grouse

  • CRP partially meets guidelines for desired breeding/summer conditions

  • Most radio-collared Gunnison Sage-grouse exhibited short-term avoidance of livestock grazing

  • Black sagebrush and big sagebrush/CRP important winter habitat


Recommendations

Maintain current enrollment in CRP

Sagebrush plantings

Wet meadow development

Winter habitat protection


Questions?

For more information:

Utah’s Community-Based Conservation Program:

www.utahcbcp.org


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