High Plains District Sage-Grouse Conservation Initiatives
Casper Field Office
Bates Creek Watershed Restoration: The project involves treating conifer and mountain sagebrush communities utilizing a combination of fire and mechanical means. Through a combination of treatments and progressive grazing management schemes there has been a marked increase in available water resulting in a dramatic improvement of the herbaceous composition, overall. These efforts were initiated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and Miles Land and Livestock in 2005. In 2008 treatments expanded to properties owned by Rob Shook, where similar results have been attained.
Lower Bates Hole Restoration: This project involved conducting mechanical vegetative treatments within basin big sagebrush communities along Stinking Creek. The goal is to improve poor shrub conditions on pronghorn antelope crucial winter range and to increase the recruitment of young plants into big sagebrush communities and chemically treat invasive annual species within big sagebrush communities. Ultimately, this will increase long-term habitat diversification and viability of crucial habitats for sagebrush obligate wildlife species. This project was developed in cooperation of the WGFD and Garrett Ranch Company.
Western Natrona County Sage Grouse Distribution Project: Seasonal distribution and habitat use by Greater Sage-Grouse in western Natrona County, Wyo., have not been determined and this is the objective this three-year project. Results from this study will provide base-line habitat and pathogen data. The goals of the Western Natrona County Sage-Grouse Distribution Project are to document seasonal movement of the sage-grouse, sagebrush characteristics of nesting, early brood rearing and winter habitat, nest success, adult survival rates by gender, and to identify pathogens that may impact the population. The specific study objectives are to:
- Determine the migratory status and map the seasonal movements of the western Natrona County population. The population is migratory if the movement between summer and winter habitat is greater than 10 kilometers.
- Develop a predictive model relating seasonal habitat use type (nesting, brood rearing, and winter) to sagebrush site characteristics (height and cover).
- Estimate the nesting success and adult survival rates for sage-grouse in western Natrona County.
- Conduct a survey of parasite presence and abundance on birds of known age and sex.
This project was developed and initiated by the BLM with the assistance of the WGFD. However, this project would not be possible without the assistance and cooperation of the all the landowners in the area which include: Forgey Ranches, Milne Ranches, M&D Livestock, Spano Trust, Cox Ranches, Strohecker Ranch LLC, Short Trusts, Eccles Land and Livestock, WildHorse Basin LLC, Dodds Trust, Clear Creek Cattle Company, Backus Ranch, and Martin Land and Livestock.
Stove Gulch Guzzler: In 2009, the BLM installed a wildlife guzzler to provide a reliable water source for wildlife, including sage-grouse, on the 14,932 acre Teapot Creek grazing allotment (10068). The BLM developed and installed the guzzler with the assistance of the Mule Deer Foundation, Shepperson Ranch, and the WGFD.
Buffalo Field Office
Powder River Basin conservation efforts: In 2008 Anadarko initiated an ongoing project that annually follows the life cycle of as many as 100 radio-marked sage-grouse females in the Powder River Basin The data collected has helped to identify successful conservation measures and guide future activities and habitat enhancements. Of critical importance for sage-grouse is identifying mosquito habitats and controlling mosquito production with biological larvicides to help reduce the spread of West Nile Virus (WNV), from which sage-grouse have little immunity and suffer high mortality. Through this sage-grouse monitoring program, Anadarko has extended their larvicide application beyond coal bed natural gas produced water to other natural sources that provide habitat for mosquitoes and pose a risk to human, equine and wildlife health. Anadarko has also conducted studies, with positive results, of applying mosquito larvicides at a landscape scale to reduce impacts. Anadarko applies numerous best management practices to lessen impacts on sage-grouse. Through a number of recent sage-grouse studies, Anadarko has identified and applies the following steps for successful conservation measures and guidance in future activities and habitat enhancements:
- Construction of underground electrical distribution lines instead of overhead structures which can serve as raptor perches
- Implementation of water management planning in Anadarko project areas: By installing pipelines, the need to construct additional water impoundments is eliminated. This practice assists in the control of mosquito populations to help reduce the spread of WNV as well as reduce the disturbance area associated with the impoundments;
- Identification of soil specific seed mixtures to enhance rapid reclamation success. Seed mixtures include forb species known to be preferred by sage-grouse
- Continual assessment and implementation of new technologies that facilitate good planning through all stages of development in order to minimize the surface footprint