The study reveals a strong link between wet sites (essential summer habitat for sage grouse to raise their broods) and sage grouse leks, and in turn, private lands. An impressive 85% of leks (breeding areas) cluster within six miles of wet summer habitats.
These streamsides, wet meadows, and wetlands compose less than 2% of the western landscape, yet more than 80% fall on private lands. The implication for conservation? Successful sage grouse conservation will hinge largely on cooperative conservation with private landowners, ranchers, and farmers to sustain these lush and vital summer habitats.
Credit for the research goes to primary investigator Patrick Donnelly, landscape ecologist with the Intermountain West Joint Venture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Coauthors are Dave Naugle, SGI science advisor; Jeremy Maestas, SGI technical lead; and Christian Hagen, Oregon State University.
Donnelly and team studied patterns of sage grouse leks and summer habitats over a 28-year period, from 1984 to 2011, using existing long-term databases, annual lek survey data collected by states, and Landsat satellite imagery. The study area covered more than 32 million acres of current sage grouse range in California, Oregon, and Northwestern Nevada. They examined the location and count data for 1,277 active lek sites.
Potential sage grouse summer habitat maps and decision support tools are available for partners to use in Oregon, California and Nevada. This tool also covers the Bi-state population where it’s being used to help target NRCS easement investments along the CA/NV border. Visit our Resources page and scroll down to the Technical Tools section to find it.