The Utah Sage-Grouse Plan identifies conservation strategies to be implemented over the next decade within 11 Sage-grouse Management Areas (SGMAs). Since the late 1990s researchers from Utah State University (USU) and Brigham Young University (BYU) have been conducting telemetry-based research on sage-grouse in Utah populations. This has resulted in over 20,000 sage-grouse seasonal location data points that were organized into one central database. We used spatial location data from 1998-2013 to assess seasonal movements and distances from leks in 13 study areas across Utah. Sage-grouse nests (n=943) averaged 2.22 km from the nearest lek and the 90th percentile was 5 km. Maximum distance for individual broods (n=958) averaged 3.71 km from nearest lek and the 90th percentile was 7.59 km. Movements from nest to summer locations (n=545) averaged 5.55 km, and the 90th percentile was 13.09 km. There is considerable variation in movement distances between populations, which likely reflects available usable space. For example, nest to maximum brood distances in study areas with more habitat space tended to have farther distances moved by broods. This demonstrated that, if given the opportunity, sage-grouse will use the space available to them. This finding supports the conservation objective of restoring areas (e.g., Phase I and II PJ treatment) in close proximity to current habitat. Individual sage-grouse moved considerable distances to meet their seasonal habitat needs. Our data suggested that buffers of 5 km (~3 mi) and 8 km (~5 mi) around leks may be needed to conserve at least 90% of Utah's sage-grouse nesting and brooding habitat, respectively. For all seasonal locations (including study areas outside SGMA boundaries) ~ 85% of nest, summer and winter locations were encompassed by current SGMAs. When weighted by lek counts in individual populations, SGMAs incorporate > 95% of Utah's studied greater sage-grouse populations.
GREATER SAGE-GROUSE SEASONAL MOVEMENTS AND EVALUATION OF UTAH'S SAGE-GROUSE MANAGEMENT AREAS
Society for Range Management
SRM Sacramento, CA