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Greater sage-grouse habitat of Nevada and northeastern California—Integrating space use, habitat selection, and survival indices to guide areas for habitat management

March 22, 2024

Executive Summary

Greater sage-grouse populations (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter sage-grouse) are threatened by a suite of disturbances and anthropogenic factors that have contributed to a net loss of sagebrush-dominant shrub cover in recent decades. Declines in sage-grouse populations are largely linked to habitat loss across their range. A key component of conservation and land use planning efforts for sage-grouse involves the continued monitoring and modeling of habitat requirements and suitability across its range. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is addressing the management of sage-grouse habitats on BLM-authorized public lands throughout the western United States through a land use planning amendment and associated environmental impact statement (86 FR 66331). More than 25 percent of the range-wide distribution of sage-grouse is within Nevada and northeastern California, and information on sage-grouse distribution and habitat requirements is important to guide appropriate management decisions. Therefore, the BLM has identified the need for updated spatially explicit information on sage-grouse habitat in Nevada and northeastern California to guide the land use planning amendment and associated management decisions.

To address this need, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey, in close cooperation with multiple State and Federal resource agency partners, including BLM, Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), sought to map sage-grouse distribution and produce example habitat designations in these states. Herein, we report results of our primary study objective, which was to map sage-grouse habitat and create example habitat management areas, based on more than a decade of location and survival data collected from marked sage-grouse across the study region coupled with lek count survey data managed by the NDOW and the CDFW.

We expanded on previously developed methodology to incorporate information on habitat selection and survival during reproductive life stages and specific seasons with updated sage-grouse location and known fate datasets, while also including brood-rearing areas that are understood to be threatened and important for population persistence. We combined predictive habitat map surfaces for each life stage and season with updated information on current occupancy patterns to classify habitat based on its suitability and probability of occupancy. We carried out additional steps to delineate specific example habitat management areas, specifically (1) incorporated corridors connecting key nesting and brood-rearing habitat, (2) corrected outputs for pre-wildfire habitat conditions within areas burned in the last 16 years, and (3) masked out areas of anthropogenic development. Our methodological example of deriving habitat management areas was intended to help inform decisions by BLM and other land managers regarding conservation and management of sage-grouse. Associated data products in the form of habitat maps provide updated, detailed, and comprehensive information about the status of habitats and can be useful to partner agencies in their efforts to designate and rank habitats for this species of high conservation concern in Nevada and California, with full recognition that on-the-ground field data and local sources of information and expertise should be used in conjunction with inferences from these models.

Publication Year 2024
Title Greater sage-grouse habitat of Nevada and northeastern California—Integrating space use, habitat selection, and survival indices to guide areas for habitat management
DOI 10.3133/ofr20241018
Authors Megan C. Milligan, Peter S. Coates, Shawn T. O'Neil, Brianne E. Brussee, Michael P. Chenaille, Derek Friend, Kathleen Steele, Justin R. Small, Timothy S. Bowden, Arlene D. Kosic, Katherine Miller
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2024-1018
Index ID ofr20241018
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center