Presentation Abstract

Title: Greater sage-grouse and energy development: a decision support analysis for guiding the size and location of “no surface occupancy” zones.
Session Title: "Ecology, Conservation and Management of Birds"
Session Number: 44
Session Time: Monday, Oct 15, 2012, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Presentation Time: Monday, Oct 15, 2012, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Presentation Number: 35
Author(s): Peter S. Coates1, Michael L. Casazza1, Scott C. Gardner2, Cory T. Overton1, Brian J. Halstead3, Lief Weichman4, Kerry P. Reese4, Brianne E. Brussee5, 1U. S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Dixon, CA, 2California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, CA, 3U. S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Sacramento, CA, 4Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Moscow, ID, 5U. S. Geological Survey, Dixon, CA, Contact:
Abstract Body: The development of anthropogenic features, especially those related to energy resources, in sagebrush ecosystems is an important concern to greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) populations among developers, conservationists, and land managers. Sage-grouse are highly dependent on different aspects of the sagebrush ecosystem to meet seasonal life-phase requirements. Research indicates that anthropogenic structures adversely affect sage-grouse within seasonal use areas. Land management agencies have implemented “no surface occupancy” zones of development at lek sites (breeding grounds) to prevent unfavorable effects. However, rationale for their decisions related to zone size and location are often challenged. To help inform this issue our study objective was twofold. First, we conducted an iterative spatial analysis to estimate optimal size of a zone centered on lek sites using seasonal utilization distributions of 228 sage-grouse (12,852 telemetry locations) across five populations within Mono County, California, during 2002 - 2009. We found season and site variation in fractional exponential curves that represented relationships between zone size and amount of utilization distribution. We summarized the diminishing returns of increasing zone size, which allows flexibility in land management decisions. The optimal size of a zone was 8,170 ha (20,188 acres), which equated to a buffer distance of 4.1 km (2.5 miles) based on lek configuration. We then evaluated whether or not leks represent the best locations for these zones. We compared values derived from iterations at leks with those from sites assigned randomly in other seasonal use areas. Centering zones at leks maximized the amount of utilization distribution by zone size seasonally and annually. Although energy development is not currently considered the primary threat to sage-grouse in Mono County, these analyses offer empirical support for decisions by developers and land managers that share an interest in meeting energy demands while conserving sage-grouse populations within the Great Basin.

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