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RangeNet Project
Project Grouse


22nd Western States Sage & Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Symposium
Redmond, Oregon
July 13 & 14, 2000

Sponsored by the Western States Sage and Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse Technical Committee

Hosted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Unofficial transcription for the web by Larry Walker of RangeBiome, A Public Rangeland Almanac, with apologies for any transcription errors. There was also some substitution of speakers that is not reflected here


Sage Grouse Management: A Federal Perspective

Judy Nelson, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State Office, 1515 SW Fifth Ave., Portland, OR 97208, USA

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages a large portion of the remaining sage grouse habitat. Until the 1970's, public rangelands were managed with an emphasis on livestock grazing. Sagebrush was viewed as an unlimited resource -a sagebrush ocean- which could be converted to better livestock forage through vegetative manipulations and livestock improvements. Today we know that sagebrush has declined dramatically as a result of fire, agricultural conversions, and exotic species invasions. Sage grouse and other sagebrush dependent species have had similar declines. A petition for listing under the Endangered Species Act is likely. There are similarities between what is facing federal agencies with sage grouse and what faced us with spotted owls in the 1980's. Are there lessons to be learned from the spotted owl listing and the Northwest Forest Plan? The BLM is currently working on several initiatives to actively manage for sagebrush ecosystems. These efforts mainly focus on protecting remaining habitats while working on long-range conservation strategies. Are there additional steps that need to be taken based on lessons learned with the spotted owl?

The Changing Sagebrush Ecosystem

Terrell D. Rich, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Fish, Wildlife and Forest Groups, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Boise, ID 83709, USA

Abstract not available.

The Spotted Owl and the Sage Grouse: Comparison and Contrast

Andy Kerr, The Larch Company, 1213 Iowa Street, Ashland, OR 97520, USA

Some biological similarities exist between the two birds: Most significantly, both species need habitats that are disfavored by industrial forces that dominate their respective landscapes. More relevant in the policy debates are the political similarities and differences between the two species. One is a political icon of the western war over forests, the other is becoming a political icon over the next western range war. Both are highly mediagenic and charismatic megafauna. Sage grouse biologists, biological agency managers and agency resource professionals interested in the conservation and restoration of grassland, desert and/or steppe ecosystems and associated resources, can gain much for their species and habitat of interest, as well as for their professional reputations and bureaucratic empires. But only if they are as savvy as their counterparts associated with spotted owls and pacific salmon have been. It's going to be a hell of a fun ride. Will you be on board, be left at the station or be run over by a speeding train? Those are your only three choices.

Current Status and Distribution of Sage and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse

Richard W. Hoffman, Colorado Division of Wildlife, 317 W. Prospect, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA

San Juan Stiver, Nevada Division of Wildlife, 1100 Valley Road, Reno, NV 89520, USA

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse historically occupied 850,000 + km2 of grassland, shrub-steppe (including sagebrush), and mountain shrub habitats from central British Columbia south across eastern Washington and Oregon, northeastern California, western Montana, Idaho, northern Nevada and Utah, and western Wyoming and Colorado. The current range covers about 70,000 km2, or approximately 8% of the historic range. Despite the drastic decline in occupied range, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse still occur in all states (reintroduced into Oregon and Nevada) and Provinces within the historic range except California. The current estimated spring population is about 60,000 birds. However, only Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and British Columbia support spring populations with >5,000 birds.

Sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) populations and distribution have been widely reported to have decreased both in the short-term 20 (+/-) years and in the long-term 100 (+/-) years across their range. The short-term change in distribution and abundance have been a concern of the Western States Sage and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Technical Committee since the early 1990's. Populations appear to cycle with peaks of abundance occurring in the early and late 1970's. A significant peak in numbers did not occur during the 1990's to the present. Since 1980, large tracts of sagebrush ecosystem have been lost, altered or fragmented decreasing distribution and abundance. A rangewide population estimate by Braun roughly calculated 155,000 breeding sage grouse in 1998. Braun also estimated a presettlement population of 2,000,000 (+/-) birds. These estimate have not been critically evaluated but they have not been widely disputed either. Plotting the distribution of sage grouse is an evolving science with the advent of GIS technologies. Current estimates indicate that sage grouse distribution 50% ( +/-) of historic distribution. Significant refinement of historic, contemporary and present numbers and distribution will occur in the next 18 months.

A Multilocus Genetic Survey of Sage Grouse Populations Across Their Range

Sara J. Oyler-McCance, U.S. Geological Survey, Mid-continent Ecological Sciences Center, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado 80208, USA

Nicholas G. Benedict, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado 80208, USA

Sonja E. Taylor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado 80208, USA

Tom W. Quinn, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado 80208, USA

The distribution and abundance of sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) have declined markedly throughout their entire range likely due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation. While many studies have documented demographic rates, behavior, morphology, and habitat requirements, little is known about the genetic relationships among populations, subspecies, and species. Overall, the distribution of genetic variation among populations across the entire range remains unknown despite increasing pressure on population managers to make difficult decisions about which populations are "important" and which are not. In this study, we are completing sequence analysis of one mitochondrial region and microsatellite analysis of five - ten nuclear regions in sage grouse sampled across their entire range. These data include boundaries between large and small-bodied populations as well as the two described subspecies of sage grouse. Further, these data are providing information relevant to an understanding of gene flow, genetic diversity and evolutionary history between many additional populations. This study will facilitate a cohesive management strategy that takes genetic distinctiveness into account, therefore increasing the efficiency with which management decisions can be made, and adding to their scientific foundation.

Sage Grouse Population Viability

Michael A Schroeder, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 1077, Bridgeport, WA 98813, USA

Population viability is an important management consideration for sage grouse (Centrocercus urophisianus). Although most managers intuitively attempt to maintain relatively large populations, the estimate of the minimum number of individuals needed to ensure a population's persistence (minimum viable population) is ambiguous. This ambiguity is due, in part, to the fact that mate selection in sage grouse is not random and most individuals do not breed successfully. The number of animals in a population that produce offspring that successfully recruit to the population can be considered the effective population size. Some have suggested that the effective population size should be at least 500 for the population to be considered viable. I examined data on sage grouse demography to estimate the ratio of effective population size to the total estimated population. The results can then be used to determine the viability of specific populations. Application of this technique with data collected in Washington indicates that the effective population is approximately 33% of the estimated population. These results show that the 2 sage grouse populations in Washington are 59-76% below the level necessary for long-term viability. The results also indicate that estimates of population viability may vary by region because of significant differences in demographic parameters among populations.

Development of Interagency MOU's and Other Cooperative Management

San Juan Stiver, Nevada Division of Wildlife, 1100 Valley Road, Reno, NV 89520, USA

The future of effective management of sage grouse and the sagebrush ecosystems across North America depend upon the close cooperation of the major land owners, the public, and the state fish and wildlife agencies. Most of the sagebrush habitats are controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. The statutory responsibility for the management of sage grouse rests with the States. The states and the federal land management agencies have cooperated in managing the sagebrush ecosystem for decades; however, sage grouse habitat and numbers have declined during that period. This decline prompted the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to develop a Memorandum of Understanding, in 1996 and reaffirmed in 1999, to develop standards for data collection and analysis, genetic mapping, population viability models, and habitat models. This MOU by the Western States' Directors affirmed their commitment to halt the decline of sage grouse. In 1999, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the federal partners of the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service was drafted to promote conservation planning, habitat management and species management for sage grouse across their range. The goals and objectives of a coordinated and cooperative management program, across state boundaries, and jurisdictions for the benefit of sage grouse is desired by all of the parties. The signing of the agreement by parties has been delayed by a host of federal laws that appear to contradict each other. A section of the MOU establishes a National Conservation Planning Framework Team. This team convened in June to begin the development of several products to facilitate a nationwide coordinated management effort. The team is developing a resource toolbox for conservation planning to help local or state conservation planning teams write plans that will meet the criteria established in the Endangered Species Act. The team is building a network to simplify the flow of information between the local planning groups and the National Team.

The Status of Sage Grouse Petitions and Conservation Planning

Pat Deibert, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4000 Airport Parkway, Cheyenne, WY 82001, USA

In May, 1999, and February, 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received a petition to list the sage grouse population in Washington State and the Gunnison sage grouse, respectively. The Spokane Field Office of the Service is currently conducting a review on the Washington State petitions. The Gunnison petition is currently "on hold" until funding is available for its review. On June 13th, Service published a draft "Policy for the Evaluation of Conservation Efforts" in the Federal Register. This policy identifies criteria the Service will use in determining whether to list species under Endangered Species Act; and if listing is appropriate, whether to list as endangered or threatened based on conservation efforts already in place at the time of the listing decision. The policy emphasized criteria which address the likelihood of implementing the conservation effort, and the effectiveness of the conservation effort in addressing the problem facing the resource.

Sage Grouse Management and Local Working Groups: Strengths and Weaknesses

Tom Hemker, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Box 25, Boise ID 83707, USA

As part of efforts to improve sage grouse management, several states have formed Local Working Groups typically consisting of state and federal agency personnel, ranchers, hunters, and various private citizens. These groups meet to try to develop management plans to help local sage grouse populations. These groups have been formed in a number of ways in different states with a varying degree of success. The strengths of these groups can include allowing many points of view to be heard, requiring participants to focus on the issue and meet deadlines, providing local ownership of the program, and generating broad support for funding requests. Weaknesses include requiring a large time investment by a lot of people, relying on volunteers, difficulty getting consensus on controversial issues and the ability of an advisory group to generate significant change. Recommendations include developing of statewide groups to provide overall guidance and leadership and a clear understanding of the objectives of each Local Working Group effort before it begins. Guidelines for developing sage grouse conservation plans are being developed by the Sage and Sharp-tailed Grouse Technical Committee and will be helpful in directing future efforts.

An Introduction to the North American Grouse Partnership

Steve Sherrod, Sutton Avian Research Center, PO Box 2007, Bartlesville, OK 74005, USA

A new national and international advocacy group for grouse, the North American Grouse Partnership (NAGP), which is hoped to eventually function similarly to Ducks Unlimited in both the U.S. and Canada, is incorporated in Idaho as a 502(C)3, not-for-profit organization. It is hoped that NAGP will function to bring the immediate plight of declining grouse species to public attention as well as to provide future oversight for the health of grouse populations, and to raise funds to help stimulate and leverage solutions for the problems resulting in grouse declines. The problems are varied, long-term, and immense, involving millions of acres of private and public land, and in many ways are greater than those faced in the past by waterfowl. The constituency for grouse is smaller than that for waterfowl, but at the same time the constituents who exist are extremely passionate. It is expected that for the first two to five years this organization will function through volunteers, but as funds are raised, a full-time salaried staff will be employed.

Spatial and Temporal Changes of Sage Grouse Habitats in the Sagebrush Biome

Richard F. Miller, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, Oregon State University, HC 71 Hwy 20, Burns, OR 97720, USA

Sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) occur in regions that are spatially diverse and temporally dynamic in western North America. During the past 130 years, significant changes in disturbance regimes have affected their habitat. Plant communities in existence today are unique from any other time period because of altered disturbance regimes, confounded by a continual change in climate. In some portions of their range, sage grouse populations have been reduced or eliminated from loss of habitat through land conversion to agriculture or shifts from perennial shrub grasslands to introduced exotic annual grasslands or pinyon-juniper woodlands. However, in other sections of their range, changes in plant community composition and structure have been minimal. Causes for decline in sage grouse populations in these areas are less clear and often debated. Spatial and temporal diversity of these semiarid landscapes significantly affect the quality of sage grouse habitat. Because of the diversity of biotic and abiotic factors and land use history across the range of sage grouse, plant community structure and composition have responded differently throughout this region. When considering a sagebrush steppe restoration plan or sage grouse habitat management plan, one must take into account landscape heterogeneity, site potential, site condition, and habitat needs of sage grouse during different segments of their life cycle: breeding, nesting, brood rearing, wintering, etc. This paper describes the spatial diversity of the sagebrush biome, and short-and long-term dynamics, disturbance regimes, and past management practices as they relate to sage grouse habitat.

(Click here to view the full manuscript in PDF format)

Broad-Scale Habitat Trends for Sage Grouse and Other Sagebrush Steppe Species in the Interior Columbia River Basin

Terrell D. Rich, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Fish, Wildlife and Forests Groups, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Boise, ID 83709, USA

Victoria A. Saab, U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 316 E. Myrtle Street, Boise, ID 83706, USA

The Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project encompasses 59,000,000 ha in the Northwestern U.S. Among the 91 priority species of birds, mammals, and reptiles included in the Project's broad-scale analysis, 31 use grassland and shrubland (primarily Artemisia) communities. This group includes 16 species of mammals and 5 species of reptiles subdivided into three "families." Family 10 (17 species) is typified by species with an affinity for the grassy end of the grass-shrub continuum, e.g., ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis), vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), and Wyoming ground squirrel (Spermophilus elegans). Family 11 (10 species) includes the sagebrush obligates - northern sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli), and pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis). Family 12 (4 species) includes the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus). Basin-wide, declines in source habitats occurred in 52%, 42%, and 60% of the watersheds, respectively, for these three families. Primary causes for declines are excessive livestock grazing, altered fire regimes, invasion of exotic plants, conversion of land to agriculture, conversion for residential and urban development, habitat fragmentation and human disturbance. Models predict poor future viability of these 31 species after 100 years under various management alternatives. Strategies for future management include identifying and conserving remaining core areas of source habitats where ecological integrity is still high, restoring the native grass and forb composition through improved livestock management, retarding the spread of non-native exotics through fire and vegetation management, and engaging in intensive vegetation restoration. Sage and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse may serve as classic umbrella species for these ecosystems.

Ongoing Sage Grouse Research in Southeastern Oregon and Northwestern Nevada: Filling in the Gaps

Mike A. Gregg, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sheldon-Hart Mt. Refuges, Lakeview OR 97630, USA

John A. Crawford, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97330, USA

Michael W. Byrne, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97330, USA

Dawn M. Davis, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97330, USA

In pursuit of refinement of our sage grouse model, we have devoted special emphasis to the status of sage grouse chicks and the landscape scale view of habitat use relative to management activities. The status of sage grouse chicks, with respect to survival and mortality, quality and availability of food, and habitat use is under investigation to determine critical components of chick ecology. Furthermore, analysis of our 11-year breeding-season habitat use data set, in conjunction with the recent addition of a complementary study area, will allow us to effectively address habitat use on a landscape scale.

Dispersion of Nests in Relation to Lek Locations for Sage Grouse in North-Central Washington

Michael A. Schroeder, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 1077, Bridgeport, WA 98813, USA

Management guidelines for prairie grouse in general,  and sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in particular, often recommend using lek locations to predict critical nesting areas. For example, sage grouse management guidelines published in 1977 recommend treating all habitats within 3.2 km of a lek location as potential breeding habitat. This recommendation was based on research showing that most females nest relatively close to leks. Although research in Idaho has shown that females select nest locations independent of lek locations, most Idaho females still nest <3.2 km from the nearest lek. Because most previous research on sage grouse was in relatively continuous habitat, I examined the dispersion of nests in relation to lek locations in a highly fragmented area of north central Washington. A total of 204 nests for 82 females were observed during 1992-1998. The average distance between nests and the lek where each female was captured was 7.8 km and the average distance to the nearest lek was 5.1 km. About 72% of the nests were >3.2 km from the nearest lek. The average distance between 1,412 random points and the nearest lek was 5.3 km; not significantly different than the average distance between actual nests and the nearest lek. The relatively large distances between nest and lek locations appear to be related to the highly fragmented habitat. These results indicate that identification of nesting habitat in north central Washington may require a technique different than the delineation of management areas around lek locations.

Population Characteristics of Northern Sage Grouse in Oregon and Colorado

Walt Van Dyke, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 3814 Clark Blvd., Ontario, OR 97914, USA

George P. Keister, Jr., Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2995 Hughes Lane, Baker City, OR 97814, USA

Clate E. Braun, Grouse Inc., 5572 N. Ventana Vista Rd., Tucson AZ 85750, USA

We examined population data obtained from samples of wings collected from Northern sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) hunters in Oregon and Colorado. Our goal was to compare characteristics of sage grouse from the western and eastern extremities of the distribution of sage grouse. We used data from all wings collected in southeastern Oregon from 1993 to 1999, and from two areas in northern Colorado from 1973 to 1998 (Jackson County) and 1976 to 1998 (lower Moffat County). These two areas represent high elevation (Jackson County) and low elevation (Moffat County) sites. Number of wings available for analysis each year averaged 554 in Oregon and 537 (Jackson County), and 877 (Moffat County) at the two Colorado sites. Proportion of young in the harvest average 48% in Oregon, and 51 - 54% in Colorado. The average number of chicks per hen in the harvest range from 1.4 in Oregon to 1.5 - 1.8 in Colorado. Estimated average nest success varied from 46 - 49% in Colorado to 54% in Oregon. The ration of females to males was lowest in young of the year (1.1 - 1.3 : 1) and highest in adults/yearlings (1.9 - 2.4 : 1) in all populations. Thus, sex ratios approximated 1:1 at hatching and favored females in older age classes. Estimated annual mortality rates for adult/yearling males were 47 to 56% (highest, 56%, in Oregon) and 38 - 43% (highest in Oregon) for adult/yearling females. All differences among populations were small with no apparent relationships caused by elevation or state of harvest. While fewer years were involved in the Oregon samples, we could not detect real differences between states in the harvest characteristics examined.

Sage Grouse Status and Harvest Opportunities in Northeastern Montana

Pat Gunderson, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Route 1 - 4210, Glasgow, MT 59230, USA

A population of sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in Valley County, Montana were first investigated 45 years ago. Three leks have been surveyed over most of this time period. Since 1989, managers have intensively surveyed a 36,000 ha block area within the county. Information from this block area has become the tool for local managers in assessing sage grouse trends. In past two years sage grouse leks in the entire southern half of the county have been searched for and surveyed. Numbers of male sage grouse observed in 2000 numbered over 1,300 in Valley County. By using the relationship between the block area, total counts over the past two years and fall wing harvest collections, managers were able to estimate spring and fall populations since 1989. Yearly estimates from the statewide harvest surveys have found the harvest in Valley County to vary from just over 250 to over 1,800 sage grouse since 1989. During this period, hunting seasons varied from 62 to 107 days in length, had daily limits between 2 and 4 birds and possession limits between 6 and 16 birds. Comparisons between the population and harvest estimates reveal a population that is independent of the liberal hunting opportunities offered.

Movements of Gunnison Sage Grouse in Southwestern Colorado

Michelle L. Commons, University of Idaho/Idaho Department of Fish and Game, 868 E. Main Street, P.O. Box 428, Jerome, ID 83338, USA

Clait E. Braun, Grouse Inc., 5572 N. Ventana Vista Road, Tucson, AZ 85750, USA

Gunnison sage grouse (Centrocercus minimus) in four isolated populations in southwestern Colorado were radio-marked during 1994-1996 to identify movement patterns. Movements were greatest at Dry Creek-Miramonte and Pinyon Mesa-Glade Park where sage grouse moved among seasonal use areas that were isolated by unsuitable habitats. Gunnison sage grouse had shorter movements at Dove Creek and Crawford, possibly because most habitats used were in close proximity and total potential habitat was small. Sage grouse moved up to 13 km from breeding to summer-use areas at Dry Creek Basin, and 7 km at Pinyon Mesa-Glade Park. They only moved a maximum of 4 km (total distance moved) at Dove Creek and Crawford. Movement patterns did not appear to be related to population size (largest at Dry Creek-Miramonte and smallest at Dove Creek and Pinyon Mesa-Glade Park). Habitat fragmentation caused by agricultural practices and natural vegetation features, especially distribution of Pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) and juniper (Junisperus spp.) was the major factor affecting distribution of areas used and seasonal movements of Gunnison sage grouse. Maintenance of habitat corridors and useful habitats including winter, nesting, and brood-use areas is important in management of isolated populations of Gunnison sage grouse in fragmented landscapes.

Using Prescribed Fire to Manage Sagebrush Communities in Occupied Sage Grouse Habitats of Wyoming

Steve Kilpatrick, Wyoming Game and Fish, PO Box 67, Jackson, WY 83001, USA

It is estimated that over 94 million acres of the western United States are dominated by various sagebrush species and approximately 58,000 square miles (37 million acres) of Wyoming are covered by thirteen different types of sagebrush. Such sagebrush communities evolved as dynamic landscapes with climatic and edaphic variation driving changes in fire frequencies, and in adaptive development of different sagebrush species. Investigations indicate the historic sagebrush-steppe ecosystem was a mosaic of successional (age) classes created and maintained by fire regimes ranging in frequency from 10-110 years depending on sagebrush species and specific geographic area. The diversity and juxtaposition of sagebrush community type, age class and associated vegetative community types provide habitat for approximately 87 species of mammals, 297 species of birds and 63 species of fish, reptiles and amphibians. Human-induced fire suppression and repetitive livestock herbivory have lead to the successionally advanced or subclimax stages across the landscape. Prescribed fire, wildland fire use, and herbivory management are effective tools available to managers for maintaining and enhancing sagebrush types and associated communities. Treatment prescriptions must be carefully designed and tailored to the species, subspecies and varieties of sagebrush targeted. This paper provides recommendations for landscape-scale management of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridenta wyomingensis), mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata vaseyana pauciflora), and Vasey big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata vaseyana vaseyana) within occupied sage grouse habitats of Wyoming.

(click here to view the full manuscript)

Protocol for Monitoring Populations of Sage and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse

Michael A. Schroeder, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 1077, Bridgeport, WA 98813, USA

Effective management of wildlife is dependent on the ability to accurately assess characteristics of populations, such as distribution, density, trend, productivity, and habitat. In the case of sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus), population assessments have been conducted with the aid of lek surveys, nest searches, brood counts, wing collections, hunter questionnaires, band recoveries, radio telemetry, genetic surveys, vegetation transects, and geographical information systems (GIS). Although collection of sage grouse population data throughout their distribution can be traced back to 1954, these efforts were subsequently adapted and expanded by the Western States and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Technical Committee (sanctioned by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies). Current efforts include development of range-wide distribution maps, coordination of genetic surveys, and refinement of specific protocols for conducting population assessments such as lek surveys. For example, range-wide maps are relatively close to completion and are currently being used in regional assessments of habitat, population viability, genetic connectivity, and management priorities.

Genetic Variation in California and Nevada Sage Grouse

Sonja E. Taylor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado 80210, USA

Nicholas G. Benedict, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, 80210, USA

Sara J. Oyler-McCance, USGS, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado 80210, USA

Tom W. Quinn, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, 80210, USA

The wide scale fragmentation and loss of suitable sagebrush habitat has been a major cause of the decline of sage grouse throughout its range. Populations that are both small and isolated are in particular danger of going extinct. Measuring population genetic variation can identify those populations that are most vulnerable as well as populations that are genetically distinct. We initially used 141 base pairs of the mitochondrial control region I in a wide ranging genetic survey of sage grouse. We have sequenced this region in sage grouse populations from Colorado, Nevada, California, Washington, and Oregon. This highly variable marker was not able to resolve any significant differences between most populations. However, there were differences between a population in Lassen County, California and a population in Mono County, California. The majority of Lassen County individuals have haplotypes in the B clade, whereas Mono County individuals have haplotypes mainly in the A clade. The A and B clades are two monophyletic clades of the mitochondrial control.

A Comprehensive Evaluation of Occupied and Unoccupied Sage Grouse Habitat in Strawberry Valley, Utah

Kevin D. Bunnell, Botany & Range Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA

Jerrant T. Flinders, Botany & Range Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA

Jon Warder, Uinta National Forest, Heber Ranger District, PO Box 190, Heber City, UT 84032, USA

Dean Mitchell, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, 1594 W. North Temple, Suite 2110, Salt Lake City, UT 84114, USA

This study evaluated all aspects of spring/summer sage grouse habitat in Strawberry Valley, Utah by measuring nesting, brood rearing and adult habitat sites. In addition three types of random habitat were measured including random habitat within core use areas, random sagebrush/grass habitat outside core use areas, and random sagebrush/grass habitat sites that had been converted to an understory of smooth brome by past management practices. Logistic regression was used to identify those habitat variables that discriminated between site types. Variables that significantly discriminated occupied habitat from random habitat outside of core use areas included: 1) percent grass cover (p=0.009) and 2) area of sagebrush canopy (p=0.032). Variables that significantly discriminated occupied habitat from random habitat with a smooth brome understory included: 1) percent forb cover (p=0.002); 2) shrub canopy cover (p=0.017) and 3) area of sagebrush canopy (p=0.077). Variables that discriminated adult habitat from brood rearing habitat included: 1) sagebrush height (p=0.001) and 2) forb diversity (p=0.126).

What Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Are Saying About Conservation Reserve Program and Post-Act Mine Reclamation Lands in Northwestern Colorado

Jennifer H. Boisvert, Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow ID 83844, USA

Kerry P. Reese, Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA

Richard W. Hoffman, Colorado Division of Wildlife, 317 W. Prospect, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA

Lek surveys conducted in Colorado from 1997-99 suggested that Columbian sharp-tailed grouse (Typanuchus phasianellus columbianus) were actively using CRP and post-act mine-reclamation lands for breeding. There is a lack of knowledge regarding the extent to which sharp-tailed grouse use and survive on these lands in Colorado. We trapped 147 individual sharp-tailed grouse from April - May 1999 and equipped 74 (30 male, 44 female) with radio transmitters. We obtained data from 60 of the radio-equipped birds. During spring and summer, non-nesting, non-brooding birds were located most often in shrub-steppe cover, while nesting and brood-rearing hens primarily selected post-act mine reclamation cover. Birds used a variety of habitats during fall, but were located mainly in tall shrub cover during winter. We measured microhabitat characteristics at 14 lek, 28 nest, and 47 brood sites. During breeding, nesting, and brood-rearing seasons females moved a mean distance of 2.9 +/- 4.4 (SD) km from the lek of capture, while males moved only 0.4 +/- 0.3 (SD) km (P>0.001). Initial nests were located a mean distance of 1.9 km and re-nests were 0.4 km from leks of capture. Mean clutch size was 10.1 eggs for initial nests and 7.7 eggs for re-nests. Egg fertility was 95%. Overall nest success was 48%. At 7 weeks post-hatch, 64% of the successful nesting hens possessed a brood and 49% of the chicks were still alive. The average brood size declined from 9.7 chicks/hen at the beginning of the brood-rearing season to 4.4 chicks/hen at the end of the season. Male and female grouse both made winter migration movements, not differing between sex (P=0.649), and ranging from 4.3 to 33.9 km. The annual survival rate of radio-equipped birds was 23%.

Red Fox Predation on Sage Grouse in Strawberry Valley, Utah

Dustin J. Bambrough, Botany & Range Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA

Kevin D. Bunnell, Botany & Range Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA

Jerran T. Flinders, Botany & Range Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84032, USA

Jon Warder, Uinta National Forest, Heber Ranger District, PO Box 190, Heber City, UT 84032, USA

Dean Mitchell, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, 1594 W. North Temple, Suite 2110, Salt Lake City, UT 84114, USA

Red fox are a non-native predator that arrived in the Strawberry Valley of northeastern Utah 15 to 20 years ago. A two-year study identified red fox as a major factor limiting the recovery and expansion of the resident sage grouse population. In a two-year study, adult sage grouse survival rates in Strawberry Valley are lowest ever reported at 30% for females and 29.7% for males. Red fox are also suspected for almost complete reproductive failure of sage grouse during the two-year study. Strawberry Reservoir, the dominant feature of the area, probably significantly contributes to the very high red fox density in the area.

Sage Grouse Winter Habitat in Strawberry Valley, Utah

Dustin J. Bambrough, Botany & Range Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA

Kevin D. Bunnell, Botany & Range Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA

Jerran T. Flinders, Botany & Range Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84032, USA

Jon Warder, Uinta National Forest, Heber Ranger District, PO Box 190, Heber City, UT 84032, USA

Dean Mitchell, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, 1594 W. North Temple, Suite 2110, Salt Lake City, UT 84114, USA

Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) winter habitat selection was examined in three areas during 1999 and 2000 for a population that is both migratory and non-migratory in Strawberry Valley, Utah. Canopy cover was greater in use sites than in random sites. Migratory areas had greater canopy cover than Strawberry. Sagebrush heights were taller in use sites than random sites in Strawberry, but not in the migratory areas. The closest shrub at the roost/feed site was taller than surrounding shrubs in Strawberry. Aspects were typically south to southeast in all areas. Sage grouse selected steeper slopes in Strawberry Valley than in migratory areas. Fluorescence tests showed Mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata vaseyana) to be dominant in Strawberry Valley and Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis) dominant in the migratory areas. Winter habitat in Strawberry Valley and its surrounding migratory areas met the recommendations in the most recent management guidelines.

A California Sage Grouse Study Update With Emphasis on Nesting Habitat and Dispersal

Frank A. Hall, California Department of Fish and Game, Honey Lake Wildlife Area, 728-600 Fish and Game Road, Wendel, CA 96136, USA

Gail P. Popham, California Department of Fish and Game, Honey Lake Wildlife Area, 728-600 Fish and Game Road, Wendel, CA 96136, USA

Between March 1998 and April 2000 we captured and radio-marked 65 female northern sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) from a 286,000 ha study site in eastern Lassen County, California to estimate differential habitat use. Sage grouse were monitored to determine habitat elements that could be better protected or enhanced to offset possible impacts to sage grouse from a 365 kV overhead power line project. Differences in habitat use vs. habitat availability were estimated by using paired samples and multiple analysis of variance (MANOVA) techniques. Habitat characteristics of occupied sites were compared for significant differences between nest and brood rearing sites and randomly selected sites within 1 km. Dispersal from leks to nest sites showed that most successful females moved almost twice as far as unsuccessful females (mean 4.1 km vs. 2.3 km, respectively) and were twice as likely to be successful in second nesting attempts rather than first attempts (56% vs. 28%, respectively). Dispersal of females within 1 year of capture showed at least 3 types of migration and residency patterns within the marked population. These included 28% of females which were year - long residents within 7 km (mean 15.4+/-5.4[SD] km), and 3 way migrants (38%) of up to 74 km (mean 29.5+/-17[SD] km) from leks. Preliminary analysis shows that some females may be occupying annual ranges dispersed over at least 700 km2 in northeastern California and adjacent northwestern Nevada. These multiple habitat use patterns may make habitat protection and enhancement opportunities more challenging.

Reproduction and Habitat Use by Sage Grouse in a Northern Fringe Population

Cameron L. Aldridge, Department of Biology, University of Regina, Regina SK S4S 0A2, Canada

In Canada, Sage Grouse are at the northern edge of the species' range, occurring only in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. The Canadian population has declined by between 66 and 92% over the last 30 years. I used radio telemetry to monitor Sage Grouse survival and measure productivity in southeastern Alberta, and assess habitat use at nesting and brood rearing locations. I found that annual survival of both females and males was low. However, reproductive effort was high, with all females attempting to nest and clutch size within the expected range. Nest success was also within the normal range and 55% of all females were successful breeders. Sage Grouse selected nest areas based on sagebrush stands that were between 7.5 m and 15 m in radius and provided greater amounts of tall cover; specifically sagebrush. Nests were located under the tallest and densest sagebrush within these stands. Fledging success was slightly lower than that found in other studies, however, chick survival to 50 days of age was only 18%; less than half of that required for stable and slightly declining populations. Brood rearing sites were also selected for based on sagebrush characteristics, but not based on forb content (ed. note: I believe the speaker made a verbal correction to this sentence in the abstract, but I failed to record it). I found that high quality mesic areas containing lush forbs important in the diet of chicks to be limiting in southern Alberta, despite the fact spring precipitation was above average over both years of my study. I developed a population model based on these estimated parameters. My model predicts that by 2018, the Alberta Sage Grouse population will fall to below 100 birds and the canadian population to fewer than 190 birds, which may not be sufficient to maintain a viable population.

A Suture and Glue Method to Attach Micro-transmitters to Day-old Sage Grouse Chicks

Nathan A Burkepile, Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA

Kerry P. Reese, Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID, 83844, USA

John W. Connelly, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, 13445 Barton Rd., Pocatello, ID 83204, USA

David Stanley, Blackfoot Animal Clinic, 401 Collins St., Blackfoot, ID 83221, USA

During the 1999 breeding season, we developed a technique to attach micro-transmitters to day-old sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) chicks. We monitored nests of radio-marked hens until eggs hatched or were destroyed. After hatching, we flushed the hen from her brood and caught day-old sage grouse chicks by hand. Chicks were then weighed and micro-transmitters were attached to 2 - 3 randomly chosen chicks per brood. Transmitters were attached to the back of chicks using two sutures and cyanoacrylate glue. Two sizes of transmitter were used with batteries lasting 10 and 21 days. Transmitters were 3% of chick body weight. Attachment of transmitters took <20 min per chick, and 31 transmitters were placed on chicks from 13 different broods. Transmitters produced no adverse signs of discomfort (i.e. falling or staggering), and no hens abandoned their brood as a result of our activities. Of the 21 transmitters recovered none fell off, but the back sutures pulled out of 2 chicks. This method of attachment allowed us to recapture the chick and replace older transmitters with new ones relatively easily. We suggest that this attachment method is a viable means of monitoring survival in day-old sage grouse chicks.

A Preliminary Study of Sage Grouse in Eastern Owyhee County, Idaho: Will the Air Force Training Range Expansion Affect Sage Grouse?

Michelle L. Commons, University of Idaho/Idaho Department of Fish and Game, 868 East Main Street, P.O. Box 428, Jerome, ID 83338, USA

During winter 1999-2000 a preliminary survey of sage grouse in eastern Owyhee County, Idaho was conducted to identify sage grouse use on, or adjacent to proposed Air Force Emitter Sites. During our preliminary study we found sage grouse using 4 of the 14 proposed sites in eastern Owyhee County, Idaho. Two of the sites are within a sagebrush patch 16km2 (+/-) in size. The other 2 sites are on the edge of small patches (<1km2) of sagebrush and crested wheatgrass. During our spring 2000 lek survey, we found displaying birds on a historic lek (has been inactive for >5 years) that is located at a proposed emitter site. The other 3 sites had wintering sage grouse and are currently being used by male sage grouse (early summer-use area). The emitter sites will be 1/4 acre to 5 acres in size. The 1/4 acre sites will have a generator and an emitter and will be fenced with a chain link fence. The 1 acre and 5 acre sites will have larger structures (buildings that mimic Iraqi targets, etc.) and a 4-strand barbed-wire fence. The Air Force plans to improve existing 2-track roads to the sites by grading, widening, and spreading gravel. Much of the area has been burned leaving only small patches of sagebrush for sage grouse use. The area is also grazed by livestock throughout the year. Given the current status of sage grouse throughout their range, we have concerns about the Air Force Training Range expansion in Owyhee County, Idaho having major impacts on sage grouse. The proposal to improve existing roads, build structures, and have numerous people on the ground will only exacerbate the problem of sage grouse survival in a highly fragmented area.