Well density seen as key factor in decline of birds in Wyoming
Limiting the density of new oil and gas drilling rigs in Wyoming may not be enough to stem the decline of greater sage-grouse, according to scientists tracking populations of the imperiled bird.
Berween 1984 and 2008, populations declined by 2.5 percent annually, and the drop is clearly linked with oil and gas development, the new study from the USGS and Colorado State University found. The researchers used annual counts of males at breeding sites for their estimates, comparing those tallies to the the density of oil and gas wells and the area of disturbance associated with these wells. Continue reading “Sage grouse and drilling just don’t mix”→
Study shows link between cattle grazing, ravens and greater sage-grouse
As a generalist species that can take advantage of ecosystem disturbances, raven numbers have tripled across the West in the last few decades, and a new study shows that they are almost fifty percent more likely to use sagebrush habitat if cattle are present.
And that’s not all — according to the research, published in Ecosphere, ravens will set up camp near greater sage-grouse breeding areas, where the big black birds prey on the eggs and chicks of the endangered sage-grouse. Since predation is the main cause of sage-grouse nest failure, the researchers suggest that reducing ravens access to food and water could help with sage-grouse conservation. Continue reading “Are ravens ravishing greater sage-grouse populations?”→
Making a decision for which the political handwriting was on the wall a long time ago, the U.S. Department of Interior this week said that greater sage-grouse are doing just fine, and don’t need protection of the Endangered Species Act.
The non-listing may very well be challenged in court by some conservation groups who question whether a patchwork of voluntary conservation measures will be enough to save one of the West’s landmark species, but federal officials — tired of fighting with governors in western states like Colorado and Nevada, said the birds “remain relatively abundant and well-distributed: across their 173-million acre range. Continue reading “Feds say greater sage-grouse not endangered”→
Current wildfire trends could cut sage grouse populations dramatically
Slowing the spiral of growing wildfires may be crucial to protecting greater sage-grouse during the next 30 years, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said after comparing wildfire, precipitation and sage grouse population trends.
Cutting destructive fires near key habitat areas would be most beneficial and could even help sage grouse populations rebound, the scientists concluded.
The new study projects that, if the current trend in wildfire continues unabated, sage grouse populations will continue to plummet — by as much as half by the mid-1940s. The models used by the scientists simulated different post-fire recovery times for sagebrush habitats based on soil attributes — soil moisture and temperature maps — that strongly influence resilience to wildfire and resistance to invasive grass species. Continue reading “Getting a handle on wildfires may be key to saving greater sage-grouse”→
FRISCO — After closely studying a greater sage-grouse subpopulation on the Columbia Plateau in eastern Washington, wildlife biologists said that power lines may be a greater factor in habitat fragmentation than previously believed.
The new study found that transmission lines from hydroelectric dams and wind turbines affect greater sage grouse habitat by isolating fragile populations and limiting movement. The was published online this summer in the journal Landscape Ecology.
FRISCO —Acknowledging the deteriorating health of sagebrush habitat and the decline of greater sage-grouse, federal officials this week announced a $211 million push to fund conservation plans and to help implement an effective strategy to reduce rangeland fire risk.