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Greater Sage-Grouse

Greater Sage-Grouse: Ecology and Conservation of a Landscape Species and Its Habitats

Steven T. Knick
John W. Connelly
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 664
  • Book Info
    Greater Sage-Grouse
    Book Description:

    Admired for its elaborate breeding displays and treasured as a game bird, the Greater Sage-Grouse is a charismatic symbol of the broad open spaces in western North America. Unfortunately these birds have declined across much of their range—which stretches across 11 western states and reaches into Canada—mostly due to loss of critical sagebrush habitat. Today the Greater Sage-Grouse is at the center of a complex conservation challenge. This multifaceted volume, an important foundation for developing conservation strategies and actions, provides a comprehensive synthesis of scientific information on the biology and ecology of the Greater Sage-Grouse. Bringing together the experience of thirty-eight researchers, it describes the bird’s population trends, its sagebrush habitat, and potential limitations to conservation, including the effects of rangeland fire, climate change, invasive plants, disease, and land uses such as energy development, grazing, and agriculture.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94868-6
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. FOREWORD Thoughts on the Role of Science in Making Public Policy
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    John C. Freemuth

    The Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) has become a species whose listing status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is fraught with controversy. The recent past has seen court cases, high-level political intervention, and disputes over what constitutes the best available scientific information. Yet the conflict over the warranted listing of the sage-grouse presents an opportunity to engage the public about what is known about the science of the sage-grouse and its sagebrush habitat, and to promote public deliberation about possible solutions. That opportunity can perhaps raise public confidence in science and make the blatant politicizing of science more difficult.


  6. GREATER SAGE-GROUSE AND SAGEBRUSH: An Introduction to the Landscape
    (pp. 1-10)
    Steven T. Knick and John W. Connelly

    The Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is often called an icon of the West because the species has become the symbol for conserving sagebrush (Artemisiaspp.) ecosystems, one of the most difficult environmental challenges in North America. Sage-grouse have undergone long-term population declines and now are absent from almost half of their estimated distribution prior to Euro-American settlement (Schroeder et al. 2004 ) (Fig. I.1). Overall, population trends have been more stable in recent years, although sage-grouse numbers are still declining in some regions (Connelly et al. 2004). Proximate reasons for population declines differ across the sage-grouse distribution, but ultimately, the...

  7. Part I Management and Conservation Status

    • CHAPTER ONE Historical Development, Principal Federal Legislation, and Current Management of Sagebrush Habitats: IMPLICATIONS FOR CONSERVATION
      (pp. 13-32)
      Steven T. Knick

      The mosaic of land ownerships and land uses in the western United States presents challenges for conserving large sagebrush (Artemisiaspp.) landscapes required by Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Today’s mix of ownership and administrative responsibilities is a direct result of the historical sequence of public land law policies that have guided disposition and use of sagebrush habitats since Euro- American settlement. These policies also left a landscape in which environmental characteristics and management objectives differ among ownership and management agencies, thus affecting conservation options and restoration potential.

      Early settlers described an endless sea of sagebrush as they traveled westward (Frémont...

      (pp. 33-50)
      San J. Stiver

      Declining Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) populations and habitat trends warranted concern for their longterm viability by state and provincial wildlife management, land management agencies, and conservationists by the mid-1990s (Connelly and Braun 1997, Braun 1998). Management authorities reacted to these trends by enhancing conservation efforts, adjusting hunting seasons, redirecting funding, and entering into cooperative agreements for coordinated management. Additionally, an assessment of sagegrouse population trends and habitat was prepared, as was a range-wide conservation strategy (Connelly et al. 2004, Stiver et al. 2006). Concern about sagegrouse and sagebrush declines also caused citizens, nongovernmental organizations, and industry to respond significantly by...

  8. Part II Ecology of Greater Sage-Grouse

    • CHAPTER THREE Characteristics and Dynamics of Greater Sage-Grouse Populations
      (pp. 53-68)
      John W. Connelly, Christian A. Hagen and Michael A. Schroeder

      Apopulation has been defined as a group of individuals of the same species that occupy an area of sufficient size to permit normal dispersal and/or migration behavior and in which numerical changes are largely determined by birth and death processes (Berryman 2002). For many years it was assumed that the demographics of populations (e.g., reproductive rates, survival, and effects of exploitation) were the same for all species of upland game (Allen 1962, Strickland et al. 1994). Allen (1962) summarized this paradigm well when he reported that small animal populations operate under a 1-year plan of decimation and replacement, nature habitually...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Characteristics of Greater Sage-Grouse Habitats: A LANDSCAPE SPECIES AT MICRO-AND MACROSCALES
      (pp. 69-84)
      John W. Connelly, E. Thomas Rinkes and Clait E. Braun

      Studies of habitat requirements of Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) (hereafter sage-grouse) date to at least the mid-1930s (Griner 1939), and numerous papers, reports, books, and management guidelines have been published on this aspect of sage-grouse biology since that time (reviews in Schroeder et al. 1999; Connelly et al. 2000c, 2004; Braun et al. 2005). Thus, it is likely that we know more about habitats used by this game bird than we know about habitats of any other native game bird in western North America.

      Virtually all studies of sage-grouse habitats have described the importance of large, woody sagebrushes (Artemisiaspp.)...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Molecular Insights into the Biology of Greater Sage-Grouse
      (pp. 85-94)
      Sara J. Oyler-McCance and Thomas W. Quinn

      Molecular genetic approaches to the study of wildlife began in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but their initial use was very limited, in part because of the amount of expertise in molecular genetic techniques that was then both necessary and rare. In the 1980s, the development of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and concurrent improvements in DNA sequencing technology led to a major increase in efficiency and decrease in cost. As a result, it is now commonplace to gather DNA sequence information from targeted regions of the mitochondrial or nuclear genomes. Such techniques are now being widely applied to...

    • CHAPTER SIX Predation on Greater Sage-Grouse: FACTS, PROCESS, AND EFFECTS
      (pp. 95-100)
      Christian A. Hagen

      Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) coevolved with a suite of predators from egg to adult life-history stages (Schroeder et al. 1999). Most game birds are shortlived with high reproductive effort (Schroeder et al. 1999). On the contrary, Greater Sage-Grouse are longer-lived than most game birds (>3 years) and have smaller clutch sizes. Most galliform mortality, both egg and individual, is due to predation (Johnsgard 1973). Game bird species have adapted and persisted despite this high mortality. Thus, predation is a fact of life for game birds, and the debate should focus on the process of predation and its seasonal effects on...

      (pp. 101-112)
      Kerry Paul Reese and John W. Connelly

      The impact of harvest on populations of many game bird species remains uncertain (Gutiérrez 1994, Roy and Woolf 2001, Otis 2002, Williams et al. 2004a). Numerous examples exist of sustainable harvest within high-quality habitats (Potts 1986, Hudson and Dobson 2001, Sutherland 2001, Willebrand and Hornell 2001), but excessive harvest can reduce spring breeding population size of game birds (Anderson and Burnham 1976, Small et al. 1991, Williams et al. 2004b). The general approach to harvest management of upland game was developed during the 1930s and 1940s (Wing 1951, Allen 1962, Dasmann 1964). This approach assumed small game populations produce a...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Parasites and Infectious Diseases of Greater Sage-Grouse
      (pp. 113-126)
      Thomas J. Christiansen and Cynthia M. Tate

      Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) host a variety of potentially pathogenic organisms, including macroparasitic arthropods (e.g., lice and ticks), helminths (e.g., nematodes, cestodes, and trematodes), and micro-parasites (protozoa, bacteria, fungi, and viruses). Few reports exist of fatal disease outbreaks in sage-grouse populations, with the exception of those caused byEimeriaspp. (coccidiosis; Honess and Post 1968) and West Nile virus (Naugle et al. 2004, 2005; Walker et al. 2007b; Walker and Naugle, this volume, chapter 9).

      The presence of pathogenic organisms within a host species does not necessarily result in disease of the individual or indicate a populationlevel effect. Some level...

    • CHAPTER NINE West Nile Virus Ecology in Sagebrush Habitat and Impacts on Greater Sage-Grouse Populations
      (pp. 127-142)
      Brett L. Walker and David E. Naugle

      Infectious diseases are now widely recognized as important sources of mortality in wild bird populations and have emerged as a major issue in avian conservation, particularly for sensitive, threatened, and declining species ( Daszak et al. 2000, Dobson and Foufopoulos 2001, Friend et al. 2001, Chomel et al. 2007). Timely and appropriate management and mitigation of disease impacts requires detailed information on ecological interactions between the pathogen and its hosts, vectors, and environment. Assessing the importance of disease for prioritizing conservation efforts requires data on disease spread, distribution, and impacts on population demographics and growth.

      A major new concern...

  9. Part III Ecology of Sagebrush

    • CHAPTER TEN Characteristics of Sagebrush Habitats and Limitations to Long-Term Conservation
      (pp. 145-184)
      Richard F. Miller, Steven T. Knick, David A. Pyke, Cara W. Meinke, Steven E. Hanser, Michael J. Wisdom and Ann L. Hild

      Ecological sites supporting sagebrush (Artemisiaspp.) within the Sage-Grouse Conservation Area (SGCA, the historical distribution of sage-grouse buffered by 50 km [Connelly et al. 2004, Schroeder et al. 2004]) represent some of the largest and most imperiled ecosystems in North America (Noss et al. 1995; Center for Science, Economics, and Environment 2002). The primary patterns, processes, and components of sagebrush ecosystems have been altered significantly since Euro-American settlement in the late 1800s (West and Young 2000, Bunting et al. 2003). Few, if any, landscapes remain intact and unchanged throughout the SGCA (Miller et al. 1994, West 1996, Miller and Eddleman...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Pre–Euro-American and Recent Fire in Sagebrush Ecosystems
      (pp. 185-202)
      William L. Baker

      Sagebrush (Artemisiaspp.)–dominated ecosystems are threatened by energy development, housing, roads, domestic livestock grazing, invasive species, global warming (Knick et al. 2003, this volume, chapter 12; Miller et al., this volume, chapter 10), and by fire. Large wildfires are occurring and managers also burn sagebrush for a variety of purposes. However, understanding of the historical role of fire in sagebrush ecosystems is under revision. Scientists commonly suggested fire was frequent in sagebrush ecosystems prior to Euro-American settlement, and subsequent exclusion of fire allowed tree invasion, particularly into high-elevation sagebrush communities (Miller and Rose 1999; Miller et al., this volume,...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Ecological Influence and Pathways of Land Use in Sagebrush
      (pp. 203-252)
      Steven T. Knick, Steven E. Hanser, Richard F. Miller, David A. Pyke, Michael J. Wisdom, Sean P. Finn, E. Thomas Rinkes and Charles J. Henny

      Lands dominated by sagebrush (Artemisiaspp.) provide a broad array of resources used by humans. Areas used primarily for traditional industries, such as mining, livestock grazing, and energy development, are juxtaposed with urban areas, crossed by infrastructure network to transport people and resources, or fragmented by agriculture and expanding exurban development. Recreation, wildlife conservation, and wilderness amenities also have intangible values, impose physical demands on sagebrush and surrounding landscapes, and often have legal designations or restrictions that can affect land management and other uses. Thus, resources contained in sagebrush systems range from consumptive commodities having a negotiated market value to...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Influences of the Human Footprint on Sagebrush Landscape Patterns: IMPLICATIONS FOR SAGE-GROUSE CONSERVATION
      (pp. 253-272)
      Matthias Leu and Steven E. Hanser

      Historically, sagebrush ecosystems consisted of large contiguous patches of sagebrush with herbaceous understory, sagebrush patches interspersed with native grasslands, and/or native grassland patches interspersed with sagebrush patches. Composition and configuration are dependent on geographical location, climate, soils, elevation, and geographically differing disturbance regimes (Frémont 1845, Vale 1975, Mack and Thompson 1982, Young 1989, Miller and Eddleman 2001). Fire extent and frequency differed among sagebrush ecological systems of the sagebrush biome (Miller and Eddleman 2001; Miller et al., this volume, chapter 10). Grazing by large ungulates was relatively rare in the western portion of this biome, whereas sagebrush landscapes east of...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Influences of Free-Roaming Equids on Sagebrush Ecosystems, with a Focus on Greater Sage-Grouse
      (pp. 273-290)
      Erik A. Beever and Cameron L. Aldridge

      Sagebrush (Artemisiaspp.) habitats have undergone significant change during the last century because of conversion, degradation, and fragmentation (Knick et al. 2003, Connelly et al. 2004). Remaining sagebrush habitats continue to be threatened by direct loss of habitat due to agricultural conversion (West and Young 2000, Connelly et al. 2004), degradation or loss from energy exploration and extraction (Braun et al. 2002, Knick et al. 2003, Lyon and Anderson 2003, Aldridge and Boyce 2007), invasions of exotic plants (Knick et al. 2003, Connelly et al. 2004), intensive grazing practices (Beck and Mitchell 2000, Hayes and Holl 2003, Crawford et al....

  10. Part IV Population Trends and Habitat Relationships

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN Greater Sage-Grouse Population Dynamics and Probability of Persistence
      (pp. 293-382)
      Edward O. Garton, John W. Connelly, Jon S. Horne, Christian A. Hagen, Ann Moser and Michael A. Schroeder

      Concerns about Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter, sage-grouse) populations have been expressed for >90 years (Hornaday 1916, Patterson 1952, Crawford and Lutz 1985, Connelly and Braun 1997). Numerous investigators have assessed sage-grouse population trends since the mid-1990s in various states and Canadian provinces (Braun 1995, Schroeder et al. 2000, Aldridge and Brigham 2003, Beck et al. 2003, McAdam 2003, Smith 2003). In addition, Connelly and Braun (1997) synthesized available data for nine western states and one province and concluded that sage-grouse breeding populations have declined by 17–47%. They also examined sagegrouse production data for six states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana,...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN Connecting Pattern and Process in Greater Sage-Grouse Populations and Sagebrush Landscapes
      (pp. 383-406)
      Steven T. Knick and Steven E. Hanser

      Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are wide-ranging, highly mobile birds that depend on sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) for most of their life requirements (Patterson 1952, Schroeder et al. 1999, Connelly et al. 2000c, Crawford et al. 2004). Extensive loss and alteration of sagebrush communities have resulted in regional and range-wide declines of Greater Sage-Grouse populations (Connelly and Braun 1997, Braun 1998, Connelly et al. 2004). The species currently occupies approximately half of its pre–Euro-American settlement range, and small populations at the edge are increasingly disjunct from larger populations at the core of the occupied range (Schroeder et al. 1999, 2004). The...

    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Influences of Environmental and Anthropogenic Features on Greater Sage-Grouse Populations, 1997–2007
      (pp. 407-450)
      Douglas H. Johnson, Matthew J. Holloran, John W. Connelly, Steven E. Hanser, Courtney L. Amundson and Steven T. Knick

      The Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a species of major conservation interest. It is endemic to sagebrush (Artemisiaspp.) ecosystems of western North America, is highly reliant on sagebrush for food and cover, and is declining in numbers in many areas. It is considered an umbrella species for several other sagebrush-obligate species (Rowland et al. 2006; Hanser and Knick, this volume, chapter 19). Many populations and habitats of Greater Sage-Grouse have been exposed in recent years to increasing levels of anthropogenic activities, such as oil and gas development, construction of communication towers, traffic on roads and highways, invasion by exotic...

    • CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Factors Associated with Extirpation of Sage-Grouse
      (pp. 451-472)
      Michael J. Wisdom, Cara W. Meinke, Steven T. Knick and Michael A. Schroeder

      Species across the world are threatened by human activities that degrade and eliminate habitats at a massive scale. The World Conservation Union estimates that >12,000 species are at risk of extinction from the pervasive and accelerating effects of human-associated causes of habitat loss (Baillie et al. 2004). Habitat loss is reflected in range contraction for many widely distributed species. Large, contiguous ranges of many terrestrial species have become smaller and fragmented, resulting in population isolation and increased vulnerability to extirpation and extinction. In western North America, a myriad of widely distributed birds and mammals have experienced large contractions in their...

  11. Part V Conservation and Management

    • CHAPTER NINETEEN Greater Sage-Grouse as an Umbrella Species for Shrubland Passerine Birds: A MULTISCALE ASSESSMENT
      (pp. 475-488)
      Steven E. Hanser and Steven T. Knick

      Sagebrush (Artemisiaspp.) ecosystems, particularly those in xeric regions at low elevations, are among the most imperiled in North America (Noss and Peters 1995, Mac et al. 1998). Few native sagebrush ecosystems remain intact; most are disturbed, altered, fragmented, or lost due to numerous factors including agriculture; improper livestock grazing; energy and natural resource development; urbanization; invasive plant and animal species; and natural, prescribed, or other human-caused fires (Noss et al. 1995, Hann et al. 1997, Miller and Eddleman 2001, Connelly et al. 2004). Consequently, restoration and management of sagebrush habitats are important conservation concerns.

      More than 350 species, including...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY Energy Development and Greater Sage-Grouse
      (pp. 489-504)
      David E. Naugle, Kevin E. Doherty, Brett L. Walker, Matthew J. Holloran and Holly E. Copeland

      World demand for energy increased by >50% in the last half-century, and a similar increase is projected between now and 2030 (National Petroleum Council 2007). Fossil fuels will likely remain the largest source of energy worldwide, with oil, natural gas, and coal accounting for 83–87% of total world demand. A primary focus of the 2005 amendments to the National Energy Policy and Conservation Act in the United States is to expedite the leasing and permitting process on public lands to increase domestic production of fossil fuels (American Gas Association 2005). Of 320, 192 federal applications to drill in 13...

      (pp. 505-516)
      Kevin E. Doherty, David E. Naugle, Holly E. Copeland, Amy Pocewicz and Joseph M. Kiesecker

      World demand for energy is predicted to increase by ⪰50% in the next 20 years (International Energy Agency 2007, National Petroleum Council 2007). The Rocky Mountain West will be one of the most heavily affected landscapes in the continental United States, as it has 7% of proven onshore oil reserves and 26% of natural gas reserves (United States Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Energy 2006). Meeting 20% of United States energy demand with wind power could impact 50,000 km², a significant portion of which would be in the Rocky Mountain West (United States Department of Energy 2008). The increasing...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO Response of Greater Sage-Grouse to the Conservation Reserve Program in Washington State
      (pp. 517-530)
      Michael A. Schroeder and W. Matthew Vander Haegen

      Shrub steppe communities historically dominated the landscape of eastern Washington (Daubenmire 1970). Today, <50% of Washington’s historical shrub steppe remains, and much of it is degraded, fragmented, and/or isolated from other similar habitats (Jacobson and Snyder 2000, Vander Haegen et al. 2000). Conversion to cropland has resulted in the greatest loss of shrub steppe in Washington, particularly among deep-soil communities (Dobler et al. 1996, Vander Haegen et al. 2000). Similar largescale conversion of shrub steppe to cropland has occurred in north-central Oregon, southern Idaho, and eastern Montana (Wisdom et al. 2000a, Knick et al. 2003). Shrub steppe communities across the...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE Restoring and Rehabilitating Sagebrush Habitats
      (pp. 531-548)
      David A. Pyke

      The sagebrush (Artemisiaspp.) ecosystem is in jeopardy from increasing dominance of exotic annual grasses and native trees, altered fire regimes, inappropriate livestockgrazing practices and off-road vehicle activity, increasing development of energy sources, and climate change (Miller et al., this volume, chapter 10; Knick et al., this volume, chapter 12). These disturbances will likely result in temporary changes in relative dominance of plants if ecosystems are sufficiently resilient, yet all life-forms and species that make up native plant communities will be maintained. Ecosystems lacking resilience may cross ecological thresholds leading them to alternative stable communities; alternative communities differ considerably in...

      (pp. 549-564)
      J. W. Connelly, S. T. Knick, C. E. Braun, W. L. Baker, E. A. Beever, T. Christiansen, K. E. Doherty, E. O. Garton, S. E. Hanser, D. H. Johnson, M. Leu, R. F. Miller, D. E. Naugle, S. J. Oyler-McCance, D. A. Pyke, K. P. Reese, M. A. Schroeder, S. J. Stiver, B. L. Walker and M. J. Wisdom

      The Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter, sage-grouse), now occupies only 56% of its likely distribution prior to European settlement (Schroeder et al. 2004). Range-wide, populations have been declining at an average of 2.0% per year from 1965 to 2003 (Connelly et al. 2004). Concerns about declining sage-grouse populations (Braun 1995, Connelly and Braun 1997, Connelly et al. 2004, Schroeder et al. 2004) coupled with information on habitat loss (Connelly et al. 2004) have prompted multiple petitions to list the species under the Endangered Species Act (Stiver, this volume, chapter 2).

      The United States Fish and Wildlife Service determined in 2010...

    (pp. 565-624)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 625-644)
    (pp. 645-646)