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Sheridan, WY, United States

Kirol C.P.,Big Horn Environmental Consultants | Sutphin A.L.,Big Horn Environmental Consultants | Bond L.,Boise State University | Fuller M.R.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 2 more authors.
Wildlife Biology | Year: 2015

Sagebrush Artemisia spp. habitats being developed for oil and gas reserves are inhabited by sagebrush obligate species including the greater sage-grouse Centrocercus urophasianus (sage-grouse) that is currently being considered for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Numerous studies suggest increasing oil and gas development may exacerbate species extinction risks. Therefore, there is a great need for effective on-site mitigation to reduce impacts to co-occurring wildlife such as sage-grouse. Nesting success is a primary factor in avian productivity and declines in nesting success are also thought to be an important contributor to population declines in sage-grouse. From 2008 to 2011 we monitored 296 nests of radio-marked female sage-grouse in a natural gas (NG) field in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming, USA, and compared nest survival in mitigated and non-mitigated development areas and relatively unaltered areas to determine if specific mitigation practices were enhancing nest survival. Nest survival was highest in relatively unaltered habitats followed by mitigated, and then non-mitigated NG areas. Reservoirs used for holding NG discharge water had the greatest support as having a direct relationship to nest survival. Within a 5-km2 area surrounding a nest, the probability of nest failure increased by about 15% for every 1.5 km increase in reservoir water edge. Reducing reservoirs was a mitigation focus and sage-grouse nesting in mitigated areas were exposed to almost half of the amount of water edge compared to those in non-mitigated areas. Further, we found that an increase in sagebrush cover was positively related to nest survival. Consequently, mitigation efforts focused on reducing reservoir construction and reducing surface disturbance, especially when the surface disturbance results in sagebrush removal, are important to enhancing sage-grouse nesting success. © 2015 The Authors. Source

Fedy B.C.,University of Waterloo | Kirol C.P.,Big Horn Environmental Consultants | Sutphin A.L.,Big Horn Environmental Consultants | Maechtle T.L.,Big Horn Environmental Consultants
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Growing global energy demands ensure the continued growth of energy development. Energy development in wildlife areas can significantly impact wildlife populations. Efforts to mitigate development impacts to wildlife are on-going, but the effectiveness of such efforts is seldom monitored or assessed. Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are sensitive to energy development and likely serve as an effective umbrella species for other sagebrush-steppe obligate wildlife. We assessed the response of birds within an energy development area before and after the implementation of mitigation action. Additionally, we quantified changes in habitat distribution and abundance in pre- and post-mitigation landscapes. Sage-grouse avoidance of energy development at large spatial scales is well documented. We limited our research to directly within an energy development field in order to assess the influence of mitigation in close proximity to energy infrastructure. We used nestlocation data (n = 488) within an energy development field to develop habitat selection models using logistic regression on data from 4 years of research prior to mitigation and for 4 years following the implementation of extensive mitigation efforts (e.g., decreased activity, buried powerlines). The post-mitigation habitat selection models indicated less avoidance of wells (well density β = 0.18 ± 0.08) than the pre-mitigation models (well density β = -0.09 ± 0.11). However, birds still avoided areas of high well density and nests were not found in areas with greater than 4 wells per km2 and the majority of nests (63%) were located in areas with ≤ 1 well per km2. Several other model coefficients differed between the two time periods and indicated stronger selection for sagebrush (pre-mitigation β = 0.30 ± 0.09; postmitigation β = 0.82 ± 0.08) and less avoidance of rugged terrain (pre-mitigation β = -0.35 ± 0.12; post-mitigation β = -0.05 ±0.09). Mitigation efforts implemented maybe responsible for the measurable improvement in sage-grouse nesting habitats within the development area. However, we cannot reject alternative hypotheses concerning the influence of population density and intraspecific competition. Additionally, we were unable to assess the actual fitness consequences of mitigation or the source-sink dynamics of the habitats. We compared the pre-mitigation and post-mitigation models predicted as maps with habitats ranked from low to high relative probability of use (equal-area bins: 1-5). We found more improvement in habitat rank between the two time periods around mitigated wells compared to nonmitigated wells. Informed mitigation within energy development fields could help improve habitats within the field. We recommend that any mitigation effort include well-informed plans to monitor the effectiveness of the implemented mitigation actions that assess both habitat use and relevant fitness parameters. Copyright: © 2015 Fedy et al. Source

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