Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat Use and Population Demographics at the Simpson Ridge Wind Resource Area, Carbon County, Wyoming

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This study was conducted to obtain baseline data on use of the proposed Simpson Ridge Wind Resource Area (SRWRA) in Carbon County, Wyoming by greater sage-grouse. The first two study years were designed to determine pre-construction seasonally selected habitats and population-level vital rates (productivity and survival). The presence of an existing wind energy facility in the project area, the PacifiCorp Seven Mile Hill (SMH) project, allowed us to obtain some information on initial sage-grouse response to wind turbines the first two years following construction. To our knowledge these are the first quantitative data on sage-grouse response to an existing wind ... continued below

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Johnson, Gregory D.; LeBeau, Chad W.; Nielsen, Ryan; Rintz, Troy; Eddy, Jamey & Holloran, Matt March 27, 2012.

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Description

This study was conducted to obtain baseline data on use of the proposed Simpson Ridge Wind Resource Area (SRWRA) in Carbon County, Wyoming by greater sage-grouse. The first two study years were designed to determine pre-construction seasonally selected habitats and population-level vital rates (productivity and survival). The presence of an existing wind energy facility in the project area, the PacifiCorp Seven Mile Hill (SMH) project, allowed us to obtain some information on initial sage-grouse response to wind turbines the first two years following construction. To our knowledge these are the first quantitative data on sage-grouse response to an existing wind energy development. This report presents results of the first two study years (April 1, 2009 through March 30, 2011). This study was selected for continued funding by the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative Sage-Grouse Collaborative (NWCC-SGC) and has been ongoing since March 30, 2011. Future reports summarizing results of this research will be distributed through the NWCC-SGC. To investigate population trends through time, we determined the distribution and numbers of males using leks throughout the study area, which included a 4-mile radius buffer around the SRWRA. Over the 2-year study, 116 female greater sage-grouse were captured by spotlighting and use of hoop nets on roosts surrounding leks during the breeding period. Radio marked birds were located anywhere from twice a week to once a month, depending on season. All radio-locations were classified to season. We developed predictor variables used to predict success of fitness parameters and relative probability of habitat selection within the SRWRA and SMH study areas. Anthropogenic features included paved highways, overhead transmission lines, wind turbines and turbine access roads. Environmental variables included vegetation and topography features. Home ranges were estimated using a kernel density estimator. We developed resource selection functions (RSF) to estimate probability of selection within the SRWRA and SMH. Fourteen active greater sage-grouse leks were documented during lek surveys Mean lek size decreased from 37 in 2008 to 22 in 2010. Four leks located 0.61, 1.3, 1.4 and 2.5 km from the nearest wind turbine remained active throughout the study, but the total number of males counted on these four leks decreased from 162 the first year prior to construction (2008), to 97 in 2010. Similar lek declines were noted in regional leks not associated with wind energy development throughout Carbon County. We obtained 2,659 sage-grouse locations from radio-equipped females, which were used to map use of each project area by season. The sage-grouse populations within both study areas are relatively non-migratory, as radio-marked sage-grouse used similar areas during all annual life cycles. Potential impacts to sage-grouse from wind energy infrastructure are not well understood. The data rom this study provide insight into the early interactions of wind energy infrastructure and sage-grouse. Nest success and brood-rearing success were not statistically different between areas with and without wind energy development in the short-term. Nest success also was not influenced by anthropogenic features such as turbines in the short-term. Additionally, female survival was similar among both study areas, suggesting wind energy infrastructure was not impacting female survival in the short-term; however, further analysis is needed to identify habitats with different levels of risk to better understand the impact of wind enregy development on survival. Nest and brood-rearing habitat selection were not influenced by turbines in the short-term; however, summer habitat selection occurred within habitats closer to wind turbines. Major roads were avoided in both study areas and during most of the seasons. The impact of transmission lines varied among study areas, suggesting other landscape features may be influencing selection. The data provided in this report are preliminary and are not meant to provide a basis for forming any conclusions regarding potential impacts of wind energy development on sage-grouse. Although the data collected during the initial phases of this study indicate that greater sage-grouse may continue to use habitats near wind-energy facilities, research conducted on greater sage-grouse response to oil and gas development has found population declines may not occur until 2-10 years after development. Therefore, long-term data from several geographic areas within the range of the sage-grouse will likely be required to adequately assess impacts of wind-energy development on greater sage-grouse.

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  • Report No.: DOE/EE0000532-1
  • Grant Number: EE0000532
  • DOI: 10.2172/1037739 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1037739
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc831292

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  • March 27, 2012

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • July 22, 2016, 7:25 p.m.

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Johnson, Gregory D.; LeBeau, Chad W.; Nielsen, Ryan; Rintz, Troy; Eddy, Jamey & Holloran, Matt. Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat Use and Population Demographics at the Simpson Ridge Wind Resource Area, Carbon County, Wyoming, report, March 27, 2012; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc831292/: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.