DOI-BLM Draft Sage-Grouse Habitat Conservation Strategy

Greater Sage-Grouse
California/Bishop Field Office

Location
Mono County is located on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in central California, along the Nevada border. The project area includes parts of Long Valley, the Mono Basin, the Bodie Hills and Fales/Wheeler Flat. US Highway 395 runs along the western boundary of the area to the intersection with State Route 108 (Sonora Junction) 110 miles north of Bishop. Some of the habitat lies within Wilderness Study Areas in the Bodie Hills and Granite Mountain (Mono Basin) management areas.

Nature of the Project
The project has several different research and management dimensions. Every year, BLM coordinates a census of sage-grouse activity on all known leks in the area. An accompanying search for previously unknown leks turned up four new strutting grounds in April 2004.

Telemetry data from radio-collared sage-grouse are collected, analyzed and entered into a GIS database along with GPS coordinates for other land features that affect habitat use, such as power lines and topography. Several hundred telemetry points are currently in the database, including information from 35 collared grouse in the Bodie Hills population.

Data on soils and vegetation from over 500,000 acres have been compiled in a Broad Scale Sagebrush Classification Map. Vegetation sampling assesses conditions in areas that sage-grouse use for various purposes, with special emphasis on nesting locations. Pinyon pine removal enhances vegetation conditions in breeding and nesting habitat. Cut pines were made available as Christmas trees in local communities.

The Bishop FO also maintains habitat improvement projects in occupied habitat. Some meadows preferred for foraging and brood-rearing underwent initial restoration in the late 1970s.

Staff from the Bishop FO used this wealth of experience to play a central role in developing a sage-grouse conservation strategy for the Bi-State (California-Nevada) area.

Dates of Project
Annual monitoring of strutting grounds has been conducted since 1953 in Long Valley and the Bodie Hills, and on Fales/Wheeler Flat.

Restoration projects directly affecting the quality of sage grouse habitat were begun in the 1970s. Other projects were implemented in the following decades.

The Bishop FO undertook intensive assessment of individual sage grouse in 2000. The U.S. Geological Survey has recently begun cooperating in the effort.

Bi-State conservation planning has been underway since November 2001.

Funding Source
Prior to 2003, all funding for monitoring, restoration projects and their maintenance, and the ecology investigation came from small amounts of Bishop FO base funding and a one-time California Department of Fish and Game allocation for riparian/meadow restoration. In 2003 and 2004 the Bishop FO received funding through the Interior Department’s Cooperative Conservation Initiative (CCI) and Challenge Cost Share (CCS) programs, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Quail Unlimited “Answer the Call” program. The funding allowed for inventory and assessment and GIS mapping of essential sagebrush-steppe and associated habitat. These funds were also used to delineate key sage grouse seasonal use areas in the Bodie Hills, as described in the “Guidelines for Management of Sage Grouse Populations and Habitats” (Connelly et. al. 2000).

Partners
Other agencies involved in the project include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Forest Service (Inyo National Forest and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest), Natural Resources Conservation Service, California Department of Fish and Game, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada-California Bi-State Local Area Conservation Planning Group (a mix of federal, state and county agencies along with concerned interest groups and individuals including public land commodity producers), the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Mono County and Town of Mammoth Lakes, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Quail Unlimited.

Best Management Practices
The Bishop FO Resource Management Plan identifies several management decisions that would affect sage-grouse and habitat quality. Salting and supplemental livestock feeding is prohibited within ¼ mile of strutting grounds. Conditions of grazing leases also ensure that fences are not located on strutting grounds and that escape ramps are installed in livestock water troughs. Other decisions establish plant community goals for sage-grouse forage and cover requirements and prohibit camping within 1/3 mile of strutting grounds during breeding periods.

Other BMPs include leaving 4-6” of residual herbaceous stubble height on meadows and riparian sites at the end of a grazing period; locating any new livestock handling or management facilities outside riparian/wetland areas; developing water sources that maintain ecologic and hydrologic function and processes of the source; and setting maximum utilization of perennial key forage species at 40%.

Local Contacts
Terry Russi, BLM Bishop Field Office – (760) 872-5035
Steve Nelson, BLM Bishop Field Office – (760) 872-5006

Strutting Sage-Grouse Since 1953, BLM and its partners have inventoried sage-grouse strutting grounds in California's Long Valley and Mono Basin. An accompanying search for previously unrecorded leks discovered four of them in April 2004. This and other data collected by the BLM's Bishop Field Office has been instrumental in developing a sage-grouse conservation strategy for the California-Nevada bi-state area.


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