Grouse team starts sagebrush mapping effort
The greater sage grouse, how can a medium sized bird cause such a commotion? Doesn’t Wyoming have more of the birds and their sagebrush habitats than anywhere in the USA?
Well, yes. Much of the wild, open character of Wyoming’s rangelands is still intact and support a large, well-distributed population of grouse, but due to longterm declines throughout its western range, although Wyoming has seen a strong overall increase the last ten years, there is considerable concern about the bird’s future. Last year Governor Freudenthal asked a group of residents to bring their diverse understanding of sage grouse needs in Wyoming to bear on this issue.
As most of us have heard there is considerable debate to list the sage grouse as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The only way to ensure a listing is not warranted is to demonstrate the population is not threatened and that adequate data and management practices are in place to restore numbers where needed or to maintain numbers where the grouse are doing well.
The Governor’s Sage Grouse Conservation Implementation Team recommended that a principle need to improve management decisions in the future is to develop a better statewide map of sage grouse habitat using aerial photography and satellite images. A good habitat map of Wyoming will allow wildlife managers to focus their efforts more efficiently on places that could really help the birds while minimizing human conflicts.
Ground samples are essential for improving interpretation of aerial imagery because they allow remote sensing scientists to understand what they are seeing in the images. Volunteers from across Wyoming will be crucial for collecting as much ground information as possible, because of the size of our state and because local knowledge of the land is so valuable.
Samples will be needed across the entire state. Some of the sampling sites will fall on private land. Sampling private land sites will only occur with the concurrence of the private landowner. Landowners will be contacted in advance to determine willingness to participate by providing access and/or by collecting the vegetation data themselves. The assistance of the private landowner will add significantly to the success of the project. Landowners can help produce the best statewide map possible and learn more about their individual ranch by contributing to the ground sampling effort. The primary field data that will be collected at each sample site will include primary species of shrub, grasses and forbs present, percent canopy cover of shrubs grasses and forbs present, percent ground cover in terms of litter, rock, and bare ground, terrain features, such as slope, presence of cheat grass and other weeds and dominant soil color. Any data collected on private land is proprietary, only ‘generalized’ maps of the lands surveyed will be public.
For a complete set of the sampling method and forms, information on training sessions, or to volunteer or provide habitat information that you have already collected from your own ranch vegetation inventory program, please contact the project lead – Eli J. Rodemaker, Remote Sensing Scientist, WyGISC, University of Wyoming. The first training to be held as part of this effort will begin at 9 a.m. on June 4 and stretch into June 5 in Laramie at the WyGISC offices. Rodemaker can also provide additional information on this event. Rodemaker’s contact information is 307-766-2794 or e-mail: Eli@uwyo.edu. Those who can’t attend the training, but are interested are also encouraged to call. If enough requests are made additional trainings will be held in other areas of the state.
Article provided by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on behalf of the state’s sage grouse team.