Jason R. Reinhardt, Jason D. Tack, Jeremy D. Maestas, David E. Naugle, Michael J. Falkowski, Kevin E. Doherty, "Optimizing Targeting of Pinyon-Juniper Management for Sagebrush Birds of Conservation Concern While Avoiding Imperiled Pinyon Jay, Rangeland Ecology & Management", Volume 88, 2023, Pages 62-69, ISSN 1550-7424.
Contemporary restoration and management of sagebrush-dominated (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems across the intermountain west of the United States increasingly involves the removal of expanding conifer, particularly juniper (Juniperus spp.) and pinyon pine (Pinus edulis, P. monophylla). The impetus behind much of this management has been the demonstrated population benefits of sagebrush restoration via conifer removal to greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), a species of conservation concern. One of the challenges with scaling up from a focal-species approach to a community-level perspective, however, is balancing the habitat requirements of different species, some of which may overlap with sage-grouse and others which may have competing habitat needs. Here, we use a systematic conservation planning approach to compute spatial optimizations that prioritize areas for conifer removal across the sage-grouse range while incorporating woodland and sagebrush songbirds into decision making. Three of the songbirds considered here, Brewer's sparrow (Spizella breweri), green-tailed towhee (Pipilo chlorurus), and sage thrasher (Poocetes gramineus), are sagebrush-obligates, while another is a woodland-obligate, the pinyon jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus). We find that the inclusion of sagebrush-obligates expands the model-selected area of consideration for conifer management, likely because habitat overlap between sagebrush-obligates is imperfect. The inclusion of pinyon jay, a woodland-obligate, resulted in substantial shifts in the distribution of model-selected priority areas for conifer removal, particularly away from pinyon jay strongholds in Nevada and east-central California. Finally, we compared the conifer optimizations created here with estimates of ongoing conifer removal efforts across the intermountain west and find that a small proportion (13−18%) of management efforts had occurred on areas predicted as being important for pinyon jay, suggesting that much of the ongoing work is already successfully avoiding critical pinyon jay habitat areas.