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Response of Greater Sage-Grouse to the Conservation Reserve Program in Washington State

Category: Wildlife Research and Management - Wildlife Research

Date Published:  2011

Number of Pages: 13

Author(s): Michael A. Schroeder and W. Matthew Vander Haegen

ABSTRACT:
We examined the relationship between the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands and Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in Washington state including an assessment of population change, nest-site selection, and general habitat use. We monitored nest-site selection of 89 female sage-grouse between 1992 and 1997 with the aid of radiotelemetry. The proportion of nests in CRP lands significantly increased from 31% in 1992–1994 to 50% in 1995–1997, although more nests were detected in shrub steppe (59% vs. 41% of 202 nests). The increase appeared to be associated with maturation of CRP fields, which were characterized by increased cover of perennial grass and big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). Nest success was similar (P = 0.38) for nests placed in the two cover types (45% in CRP and 39% in shrub steppe). Counts of fecal pellets indicated that sage-grouse selected areas with greater sagebrush cover, especially in relatively new CRP in a shrub steppe landscape. Analysis of male lek attendance prior to implementation of CRP (1970–1988) illustrated similar rates of declines in two separate populations of sage-grouse in north-central and south-central Washington. Data from 1992 to 2007 following establishment of the CRP revealed a reversal of the population decline in north-central Washington while the south-central population continued a long-term decline (~17% vs. 2% of the occupied areas were in the CRP, respectively). These results indicate that lands enrolled in the CRP can have a positive impact on Greater Sage-Grouse, especially if they include big sagebrush and are focused in landscapes with substantial extant shrub steppe. The CRP for sagegrouse and other sage-dependent species should be considered a long-term investment because of the time required for sagebrush plants to develop.

Suggested Citation:
Schroeder, M. A., and W. M. Vander Haegen. 2011. Response of Greater Sage-Grouse to the conservation reserve program in Washington State. Pp. 517–529 in S. T. Knick and J. W. Connelly (editors). Greater Sage-Grouse: ecology and conservation of a landscape species and its habitats. Studies in Avian Biology (vol. 38), University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.