Moffat Co., Colorado and Sweetwater Co., Wyoming
Field data collection is complete. Preliminary seasonal habitat maps have been completed. Final data analysis and preparation of manuscripts for publication is on-going.
- Create high-resolution seasonal habitat maps for greater sage-grouse within the proposed Hiawatha Regional Energy Development Project boundary
- Evaluate the relative importance of local- versus landscape-level habitat characteristics on winter habitat selection
- Identify landscape-level seasonal habitat guidelines
- Assess whether historical energy development in the Hiawatha area influences current habitat selection
Recent energy development within sagebrush habitat has led to concern for conservation of greater sage-grouse populations, and both industry and regulatory agencies need better information on when and where sage-grouse occur to reduce impacts from development. Previous studies have shown that intensive energy development can lead to avoidance, lower abundance, and reduced lek persistence. Sage-grouse often move long distances to find suitable winter habitat and typically have high seasonal site fidelity (i.e., returning to winter in the same areas year after year). For that reason, energy development within wintering areas may have disproportionately large effects on local or regional populations. Resource selection functions can now be combined with geographic information system layers to model habitat use by sage-grouse and to map key seasonal habitats at high resolution at a landscape scale. Although we know that local habitat features like shrub species, height, and cover are important in determining winter habitat quality for sage-grouse, individuals likely also select habitat based on the extent of suitable vegetation and topography around them at larger scales, so managers also need to understand sage-grouse landscape-scale habitat requirements. Multi-scale habitat use models, landscape-scale habitat guidelines, and high-resolution seasonal habitat-use maps will streamline planning and mitigation for industry and facilitate sage-grouse conservation in areas with energy development.
The proposed Hiawatha Regional Energy Development Project overlaps approximately 70% of the known winter habitat and a portion of the documented nesting and brood-rearing habitat for the sage-grouse population that breeds in the tri-state border region in NW Colorado, SW Wyoming, and NE Utah. For that reason, there is concern that the Regional Energy Development Project may lead to declines in local populations to levels below population targets established by CPW and the NW Local Working Group. We conducted a cooperative, 3-year research project within the proposed Hiawatha Regional Energy Development Project boundary in NW Colorado and SW Wyoming to (1) produce high-resolution conservation planning maps that delineate important seasonal sage-grouse habitats, (2) evaluate the relative importance of landscape-scale vs. local-scale habitat characteristics in winter habitat selection, (3) identify winter landscape-scale habitat guidelines, and (4) assess whether historical energy development affects current habitat selection.