Technical Report

Greater Sage-grouse conservation assessment and strategy for Oregon: A plan to maintain and enhance populations and habitat

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  • Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) were once found in most grassland and sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) habitats east of the Cascades in Oregon. European settlement and conversion of sagebrush steppe into agricultural production led to extirpation of the species in the Columbia Basin by the early part of the 1900s, but sagebrush rangelands have persisted, particularly in southeast Oregon. Populations have fluctuated markedly since the mid 1900s with notable declines in populations from the 1950s to early 1970s. These patterns in populations and habitat loss are similar to those observed for greater sage-grouse throughout its range. Population declines during the latter part of the 1900s lead to considerable concern for the species and subsequent conservation planning in all western states where it occurs. This management strategy is a result of this larger conservation effort by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. This updated and revised Plan describes Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s management of greater sage-grouse and provides guidance to public land management agencies and land managers for sage-grouse conservation. Conservation actions should be encouraged on private lands as these contain some of the more productive sites, but conservation on private land is voluntary. Highlights of updates. Population goals have been revised based on statistically more robust methods for estimating population sizes. Accomplishments in conservation, research, and monitoring that have occurred since 2005 are discussed. The Core Area approach to strategically identifying important landscapes for sage-grouse is explained in detail from model development to implementation. Finally, there have been numerous publications on sage-grouse since 2005 and that literature has been updated to the document where appropriate. This management strategy and the supporting background information is intended to promote the conservation of greater sage-grouse and intact functioning sagebrush communities in Oregon. The strategy is tied to the life history of greater sage-grouse and uses the best science available. Although this strategy focuses on conservation of greater sage-grouse, the intent is to benefit conservation needs of other sagebrush-steppe species. Oregon greater sage-grouse are important to the North American population and management actions in the state will have implications on a much larger scale. This Plan recognizes that livestock ranching operations which manage for ecologically sustainable native rangelands is compatible with sage-grouse conservation, and necessary management activities to maintain a sustainable ranching operation are not considered “development actions” under the application of the Mitigation Policy to sage-grouse habitat. This Plan provides biological recommendations for long-term conservation of sage-grouse in Oregon based on the best available science. However, ODFW recognizes that land use planners and managers may need to consider these recommendations within the context of socialeconomic issues and decisions that are the responsibility of the respective governmental bodies. Thus, the intent of this plan is to inform decision-makers regarding the biological consequences of various actions on sage-grouse, but not to dictate land management decision. This document is divided into 6 sections. Section I explains the background and philosophy of conservation approaches in this strategy. Section II provides an overview of sage-grouse biology and ecology throughout the species range. Sections III and IV provide an assessment of populations and habitat, respectively, upon which management objectives are developed and their underlying assumptions and rationale are stated. In Section V, conservation guidelines are outlined, that describe actions needed and methods for achieving habitat objectives. Section VI outlines components for Plan implementation, includes a description of the structure and role of local implementation groups, and implications for public (state and federal) land management agencies. There are 6 appendices that provide supporting information, including a new appendix about socio-economics provided by the Association of Oregon Counties. Sections III to VI of the plan were expanded, because these sections are linked to the objectives and implementation of this Plan. Populations and habitat were assessed by BLM district boundaries because; the availability of habitat measures by district, each district approximates an eco-region, and BLM is the primary land manager within most of the district boundaries. The 23 years 1980-2003 are the relevant time period to establish a benchmark for sage-grouse populations and their habitats, because the factors of predator control methods (and take levels), grazing schedules, survey protocols, habitat treatments and harvest levels of sage-grouse were similar through this period.
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  • 221 pages


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