Greater sage-grouse science (2015–17)—Synthesis and potential management implications

Open-File Report 2018-1017
Prepared in cooperation with Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
By: , and 

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Executive Summary

The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter called “sage-grouse”), a species that requires sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), has experienced range-wide declines in its distribution and abundance. These declines have prompted substantial research and management investments to improve the understanding of sage-grouse and its habitats and reverse declines in distribution and population numbers.

Over the past two decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has responded to eight petitions to list the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, with the completion of the most recent listing determination in September 2015. At that time, the USFWS determined that the sage-grouse did not warrant a listing, primarily because of the large scale science-based conservation and planning efforts completed or started by Federal, State, local agencies, private landowners, and other entities across the range. The planning efforts culminated in the development of the 2015 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service Land Use Plan Amendments, which provided regulatory certainty and commitment from Federal land-management agencies to limit, mitigate, and track anthropogenic disturbance and implement other sage-grouse conservation measures.

After these policy decisions, the scientific community has continued to refine and expand the knowledge available to inform implementation of management actions, increase the efficiency and effectiveness of those actions, and continue developing an overall understanding of sage-grouse populations, habitat requirements, and their response to human activity and other habitat changes. The development of science has been driven by multiple prioritization documents including the “Greater Sage-Grouse National Research Strategy” (Hanser and Manier, 2013) and, most recently, the “Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy Actionable Science Plan” (Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy Actionable Science Plan Team, 2016).

In October 2017, after a review of the 2015 Federal plans relative to State sage-grouse plans, in accordance with Secretarial Order 3353, the BLM issued a notice of intent to consider whether to amend some, all, or none of the 2015 land use plans. At that time, the BLM requested the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to inform this effort through the development of an annotated bibliography of sage-grouse science published since January 2015 and a report that synthesized and outlined the potential management implications of this new science. Development of the annotated bibliography resulted in the identification and summarization of 169 peer-reviewed scientific publications and reports. The USGS then convened an interagency team (hereafter referred to as the “team”) to develop this report that focuses on the primary topics of importance to the ongoing management of sage-grouse and their habitats.

The team developed this report in a three-step process. First, the team identified six primary topic areas for discussion based on the members’ collective knowledge regarding sage-grouse, their habitats, and threats to either or both. Second, the team reviewed all the material in the “Annotated Bibliography of Scientific Research on Greater Sage-Grouse Published since January 2015” to identify the science that addressed the topics. Third, team members discussed the science related to each topic, evaluated the consistency of the science with existing knowledge before 2015, and summarized the potential management implications of this science. The six primary topics identified by the team were:

  • Multiscale habitat suitability and mapping tools
  • Discrete anthropogenic activities
  • Diffuse activities
  • Fire and invasive species
  • Restoration effectiveness
  • Population estimation and genetics

Suggested Citation

Hanser, S.E., Deibert, P.A., Tull, J.C., Carr, N.B., Aldridge, C.L., Bargsten, T.C., Christiansen, T.J., Coates, P.S., Crist, M.R., Doherty, K.E., Ellsworth, E.A., Foster, L.J., Herren, V.A., Miller, K.H., Moser, Ann, Naeve, R.M., Prentice, K.L., Remington, T.E., Ricca, M.A., Shinneman, D.J., Truex, R.L., Wiechman, L.A., Wilson, D.C., and Bowen, Z.H., 2018, Greater sage-grouse science (2015–17)—Synthesis and potential management implications: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018–1017, 46 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181017.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Process and Scope
  • Topics
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Greater sage-grouse science (2015–17)—Synthesis and potential management implications
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2018-1017
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181017
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Office of the AD Ecosystems
Description vi, 46 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y