Sage grouse populations began rapidly declining across the state in 2006. News 13’s Landon Harrar went to a conference in Lander that has researchers talking about how state and federal agency plans are helping to re-juvenate sage grouse numbers in Wyoming.
Protecting Wyoming’s sage grouse populations requires many organizations to study how the birds are affected by outside factors like wind farms, and gas drilling.
University of Wyoming Associate Professor Jeff Beck said “we’re going to look at disturbance and how disturbance, different levels of disturbance might influence nesting and brood survival.”
Governor Mead has declared an executive order defining core areas where sage grouse habitats are protected from human elements.
BLM Acting District Manager Dennis Carpenter said “one of the points of the executive order is for oil and gas development within core, its one well pad per section.”
Studies show sage grouse need large undisturbed landscapes to live and breed successfully.
U.S. Geologist Survey Researcher Cameron Aldridge stated "within these energy fields as much as 10 kilometers away we start to see sage grouse populations decline as the development occurs.”
Sage grouse breeding grounds known as leks are protected by the executive order.
Beck said “the surface disturbance cannot exceed 5% within a four mile area around sage grouse leks. So that’s one of the few mechanisms that they have in place that is really effective.”
The conference in lander is bringing together multiple organizations so strategies already in place can be observed and possibly improved.
Wyoming Department of Agriculture Senior Policy Analyst Joe Budd stated “the collaboration is a key component to reaching a goal that’s desired by all involved.”
Sage grouse populations have rebounded the past two years thanks to all the research and time dedicated to their survival.
Carpenter said “the sage grouse is a very important part of Wyoming and the research that’s been presented here has been eye opening. There’s a lot of people focusing a lot of effort on it.”
The governor’s executive order provides protection for almost 80 percent of male sage grouse … while core areas support as much as 60 percent of Wyoming’s total population.