Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Wyoming
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wyoming Project

Response of Greater Sage Grouse to Habitat Treatments in Wyoming.

May 2010 - December 2013


Participating Agencies

  • Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Juvenile greater sage grouse

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department [WGFD] has identified 3 general research directions in which representative studies can be established. A central issue in preparing our approach to research is the recognition of the facts that (1) sagebrush community recovery is very slow following disturbances such as habitat enhancement treatments (Baker 2006; Beck et al. 2009, 2010), (2) Wyoming big sagebrush (A. tridentata wyomingensis), which dominates sagebrush habitats in Wyoming, recovers in different ways and at a much slower rate than mountain big sagebrush (A. t. vaseyana) communities following disturbances (Baker 2009, Beck et al. 2010), and (3) the structure and function of wildlife habitats within sagebrush communities respond differently to various habitat treatments (Hess and Beck 2010, Beck et al. In preparation). Consequently, understanding the response of sage-grouse populations to habitat treatments will most likely require longer time scales than typical wildlife studies are designed to address. Below we have identified three study foci to direct a long-term research program designed to answer questions about sagebrush habitat treatments and the response of sage-grouse, and ultimately other sagebrush-dependent wildlife based on potential synergistic efforts focused on other sensitive species at overlapping sites. Sage-grouse are arguably the most-studied sagebrush-dependent wildlife species, with habitat research dating back to the 1930s (Griner 1939). Recent syntheses provide a review of local- and landscape-scale sage-grouse habitat characteristics (Connelly et al. 2010); a meta-analysis of habitat features forming nesting and brood-rearing sites (Hagen et al. 2007); and a review of the response of important features of sage-grouse habitats to herbicide application, mechanical treatments, and prescribed burning (Beck et al. In preparation). Based on their obligate reliance on sagebrush, it is not surprising that direct loss of large amounts of sagebrush have led to drastic declines in sage-grouse populations (Swenson et al. 1987, Connelly et al. 2000a). However, a synthesis of sage-grouse population responses to strategic, small-scale habitat enhancement treatments is limited by the relative lack of studies (see Dahlgren et al. 2006). Consequently, a compilation of existing literature on the relationships between sage-grouse habitat and population responses to habitat enhancement treatments could provide much insight on fruitful future lines of research without “reinventing the wheel.” Such a synthesis will be useful to inform the study design and approach of the two additional research foci proposed below.