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Recovery Strategy for the Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus urophasianus) in Canada

2. Recovery

2.1 Recovery feasibility

Recovery of the Sage-Grouse in Canada is determined to be feasible because the species meets all the four necessary conditions (Environment Canada 2005), as described below.


1) Are individuals capable of reproduction currently available to improve the population growth rate or population abundance?

Sage-Grouse populations in prairie Canada have exhibited marked declines over the past 3-4 decades and have remained relatively unchanged at low levels for the past five years. In Alberta, the population has remained between 90 – 136 males attending leks for the past 11 years (D. Eslinger, 2006, pers. comm., Alberta Sustainable Resource Development). Annual Canadian spring populations have averaged 530 to 785 birds. Annual recruitment (chick survival) is adequate for population maintenance but inadequate for significant population growth and recovery. Therefore, individuals capable of reproduction are available but increases in Sage-Grouse productivity and annual recruitment are needed for population growth.


2) Is sufficient suitable habitat available to support the species or could it be made available through habitat management or restoration?

There is sufficient habitat available to support Sage-Grouse populations particularly if land management initiatives favourable to Sage-Grouse are implemented. Much of the habitat utilized by Sage-Grouse in Alberta and Saskatchewan is crown owned land and used for grazing. Research has shown that there is good quality ‘source’ habitat being used by Sage-Grouse and annual productivity on these lands is sufficient for growth (Aldridge 2005). Sage-Grouse also use a considerable amount of ‘sink’ habitat (where reproduction is not sufficient to offset local mortality (Pulliam 1988)) that is sub-optimal for population growth, but has high potential for positive population growth with land management initiatives.


3) Can significant threats to the species or its habitat be avoided or mitigated through recovery actions?

Sage-Grouse are listed as endangered in Alberta (Alberta Wildlife Act) and Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Wildlife Act), with protection against the capturing, killing, or harming of birds, or destruction of nests. Although there is no specific legislative protection for Sage-Grouse habitat in Alberta, land use guidelines are in place with respect to activities and development around leks. The Saskatchewan Wildlife Habitat Protection Act provides protection for Sage-Grouse habitat by precluding cultivation of native vegetation and destruction of habitat without a permit. Lands within Grasslands National Park, SK may be the most secure with protection for Sage-Grouse and their habitat provided through the Species At Risk Act and the National Parks Act.

There is some awareness with respect to the plight of Sage-Grouse amongst land users and land use regulators across the current range of Sage-Grouse. Representatives of the agriculture industry, land use administrators, and industry are actively involved in planning and implementing Sage-Grouse protection and recovery efforts in Alberta. Efforts are being directed at development of best management practices for sagebrush-grassland complexes to provide optimal benefits to Sage-Grouse. With a collaborative effort directed at improving productive and sub-optimal habitats, current reproductive effort of Sage-Grouse can translate into annual recruitment that enables population recovery.


4) Do the necessary recovery techniques exist and are they demonstrated to be effective?

Techniques to enhance habitat for increased annual recruitment are unproven but studies incorporated into the Sage-Grouse recovery strategy and the Alberta Recovery Plan (Alberta Sage Grouse Recovery Action Group 2005) will provide valuable insight into best management practices for habitat enhancement. Efforts to develop best management practices for Sage-Grouse habitat are ongoing. Should catastrophic events (e.g., disease) occur that dramatically reduce Canadian populations, or if population genetic viability is questionable, translocation of Sage-Grouse from other jurisdictions could be pursued to augment existing populations or to promote population expansion.


2.2 Recovery goals and population and distribution objectives

Goals for recovery of Sage-Grouse populations are immediate, short-term, and long-term, with the recognition that these goals are established without the benefit of a population viability analysis. Goals may change pending results of such an assessment.

  1. No loss of active Sage-Grouse leks or Sage-Grouse population numbers in any portion of the current Sage-Grouse range in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
  2. By 2012, improve Sage-Grouse population status and productivity within Alberta and Saskatchewan so that all populations show a positive trend in the number of strutting males at leks and the number of active leks for the period of 2000 to 2012.
  3. By 2026, achieve a stable or increasing Sage-Grouse population, based on historical averages, with
    • ≥ 365 strutting males at leks in Alberta (1968 to 1989 average, range 198-613), and ≥ 500 strutting males at leks in Saskatchewan (Canadian Sage-Grouse Recovery Team 2001), and
    • ≥ 16 active leks in Alberta (1968 to 1989 average, range 11-21), and ≥ 30 active leks in Saskatchewan (Canadian Sage-Grouse Recovery Team 2001).


2.3 Approaches recommended to meet recovery objectives

 

Table 1. Recovery planning table – Objective: Monitor Sage-Grouse populations and population parameters to evaluate progress towards population recovery and efficiency of recovery actions.
PriorityThreat addressedGeneral strategies
UrgentAllAnnually conduct spring counts of strutting males at all known active and inactive leks in AB and SK.
UrgentAllOnce every 3 years, conduct spring surveys to search for new active leks in AB and SK.
UrgentAllBy 2010, develop a winter survey methodology. Conduct annual winter surveys of SG populations in AB and SK.
UrgentAllBy 2012, develop methodology for calculating productivity and recruitment index using results of spring lek surveys, winter population surveys and other techniques.

 

Table 1. Recovery planning table (continued) – Objective: Maintain the reproductive and genetic viability of Sage-Grouse populations or segments of populations in prairie Canada.
PriorityThreat addressedGeneral strategies
UrgentAllBy 2008, conduct morphological and histological analysis for developmental anomalies and associated reproductive success using eggs from failed nests and abandoned eggs (analyses should be ongoing whenever hens are radio-collared)
UrgentHabitat fragmentation.By 2009, assess genetic isolation and interchange of individual or groups of leks in Canadian and northern Montana SG
CriticalHabitat loss, fragmentation.By 2008, define genetic viability of Canadian SG leks or lek complexes and viability of small Canadian lek clusters.
UrgentHabitat fragmentation, degradation.By 2009, determine need for translocation of SG into Canada, based on genetic analyses, population viability analyses, demographic evaluations, success of North American SG transplants, and the Alberta Recovery Plan.
UrgentHabitat loss, fragmentation.By 2011, define boundaries of the Canada/northern Montana SG population, using genetic and ecological (telemetry) data.
NecessaryHabitat loss, fragmentation.By 2012, and every five years thereafter, assess (via blood, feather collection, etc.) the degree of genetic diversity and gene flow between Canada and northern Montana.
NecessaryHabitat fragmentationOpportunistically collect and preserve SG samples (blood, feathers, etc.) from range of SG in Canada and northern Montana, for future genetic analyses.
UrgentHabitat loss, fragmentation.By 2012, collaboratively, develop and refine captive-breeding, translocation and reintroduction methods for SG.
UrgentHabitat fragmentation.By 2009, quantify the degree of hybridization between SG and sharp-tailed grouse.
UrgentHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation.By 2012, identify core habitat areas essential for maintaining ecological linkages and gene flow between SG in Canada and northern Montana.
UrgentHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation.By 2016, work with jurisdictions to secure habitat linkages between SG sub-populations in Canada and northern Montana.
Necessary By 2016, establish and maintain a captive flock of SG with Alberta (or other appropriate stock) genetics to preserve genetics in perpetuity.

 

Table 1. Recovery planning table (continued) – Objective: Determine environmental and anthropogenic factors affecting Sage-Grouse life requisites that may have caused post-1988 population declines, and may impede or contribute to population recovery. When possible develop mitigation measures.
PriorityThreat addressedGeneral strategies
UrgentDisease, altered hydrology, climate.By 2009, assess impacts of disease (West Nile virus and others) and parasites on SG annual recruitment, include potential losses as endemic mortality factors in population viability analyses and cumulative effects assessment. Monitor losses to disease and parasites and when possible develop mitigation measures (ongoing).
UrgentHabitat degradation, fragmentation, predation, altered hydrology, climate.By 2009, initiate a predation study to evaluate the impacts on SG annual recruitment, determine relationships between land-use practices and predation rates, and role of predation within the suite of stressors (coordinate with surface water management and grazing research).
UrgentHabitat loss, fragmentation, degradation, predation, altered hydrology, climate.By 2009, initiate research to assess the impacts of surface water management on viability and productivity of sagebrush communities, including relationships between water management and availability of insect and forage resources for SG within SG range in Canada (coordinate with predation and grazing research).
UrgentHabitat degradation, predation, altered hydrology, climate.By 2009, initiate research to assess relationships between grazing management practices in silver sagebrush communities and hydrology in achieving optimal SG habitat conditions for all life cycle requisites (coordinate with predation and surface water management research).
UrgentHabitat degradation, climate.By 2009, initiate studies to evaluate potential impacts of interspecific competition (e.g. pronghorn) for food resources (sagebrush and forbs) on SG productivity.
CriticalHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation, predation, altered hydrology.By 2009, complete modeling to characterize anthropogenic footprint and cumulative effects of industry and agriculture within SG range in Canada. When possible develop mitigation measures.
CriticalHabitat loss, degradation, predation, altered hydrology.By 2009, work with Canadian and United States jurisdictions to develop best management practices for silver sagebrush communities that will result in habitat for all SG life requisites.
UrgentHabitat loss, degradation.By 2009, work with producers, industry and policy-makers to conduct an evaluation of agriculture support programs and industrial policies to determine impacts on SG and SG habitat.
NecessaryHabitat degradation, fragmentation.By 2012, initiate research into the efficacy of using fire as a tool to stimulate or revitalize silver sagebrush communities.

 

Table 1. Recovery planning table (continued) – Objective: Identify, secure, and enhance habitat of significant importance to the Sage-Grouse life cycle.
PriorityThreat addressedGeneral strategies
CriticalHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation.By 2008, define, identify and map all winter habitat used by SG in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
CriticalHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation.By 2009, define, identify and map all ‘source’ and sub-optimal ‘sink’ nesting and brood rearing habitat used by SG in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
CriticalHabitat fragmentation.By 2008, complete a review to evaluate and refine land-use guidelines for industrial activity around leks.
UrgentHabitat degradation, fragmentation.By 2009, develop techniques and methodologies for re-establishment and propagation of silver sagebrush within grassland communities.
CriticalHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation.By 2008, conduct a ‘risk analysis’ to identify portions of SG range in Canada that could potentially be lost due to changes in land use and cultivation (e.g. irrigated potato production, conversion to tame forage/other crop types).
CriticalHabitat fragmentation.By 2008, contact all key land users within the SG range in Canada to encourage compliance with land-use guidelines to minimize disturbance and impacts on SG.
UrgentHabitat loss.By 2010, secure all identified wintering habitat, all lek areas, and all ‘source’ and sub-optimal nesting and brood rearing habitat used by SG in Canada.
UrgentHabitat degradation, predation.By 2011, determine the limiting factors within identified sub-optimal habitat used by SG.
UrgentHabitat degradation, fragmentation, loss.By 2011, develop land-use guidelines for core nesting, brood rearing, and winter habitat used by SG.
UrgentHabitat loss, fragmentation.By 2012, identify areas and develop maps of areas within current historical range of SG in Canada that have potential for re-establishment of silver sagebrush-grassland communities. Opportunities to include silver sage brush restoration and sage brush enhancement in areas proximal to SG should be pursued and encouraged though stewardship, agricultural, or other programs whenever possible.
UrgentHabitat degradation, fragmentation, altered hydrology, predationBy 2012, evaluate the productivity and habitat conditions on identified source habitat to determine management initiatives that can be applied to maximize SG annual recruitment.
UrgentHabitat degradation, fragmentation, predation, altered hydrology.By 2012, initiate experimental habitat enhancement, within an adaptive resource management framework, on sub-optimal nesting and brood rearing habitat used by SG.
UrgentHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation.By 2012, work with key industry stakeholders to decommission all unnecessary infrastructure and re-vegetate (when required) such sites into silver sagebrush communities.

 

Table 1. Recovery planning table (continued) – Objective: Develop and maintain broad sector support for Sage-Grouse recovery and conservation efforts.
PriorityThreat addressedGeneral strategies
UrgentHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation.By 2009, develop and distribute public and media-focused information products that promote recovery efforts and the need for conservation actions.
UrgentHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation.By 2009, develop and distribute agriculture and industry-focused information products that relate to impacts of disturbance on SG.
UrgentHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation.By 2009, contact all key industrial and agricultural stakeholders in SG range to promote enhancement of habitat for optimal recruitment and to enlist direct active involvement of producers and industry in conservation initiatives.

 

Table 1. Recovery planning table (continued) – Objective: Integrate Sage-Grouse recovery efforts into broader conservation planning programs for prairie grassland species and prairie conservation initiatives.
PriorityThreat addressedGeneral strategies
NecessaryHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation, predation, altered hydrology, direct mortality.

By 2008, integrate SG recovery into more comprehensive prairie conservation/endangered species planning initiatives.

Coordinate with WAFWA Greater Sage-Grouse Comprehensive Conservation Strategy as needed / appropriate.

NecessaryHabitat loss, degradation, fragmentation, predation, altered hydrology, direct mortality.By 2009, coordinate a collaborative forum with recovery teams for other Canadian prairie grassland species at risk to explore landscape scale conservation initiatives that may be beneficial to all species concerned.

Critical = without which population will decline; Urgent = needed to evaluate and guide recovery; Necessary = beneficial to recovery; SG = Sage-Grouse.

 

2.4 Narrative to support recovery planning table

Sage-Grouse populations in prairie Canada are precariously low with scattered distribution (Aldridge 1998a, Aldridge 2005). Canadian membership in and coordination with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) Greater Sage-Grouse Comprehensive Conservation Strategy (Stiver et al. 2006) is an important priority for successful cooperative Sage-Grouse and sagebrush conservation. Land management actions and an adaptive management approach are required for population maintenance and growth throughout the current and historic range. Well-designed experimental manipulations of important landscape factors within the fragmented prairie sagebrush-grassland ecosystem would be valuable. Manipulations should include resources dedicated to monitoring and evaluating effects in order to provide meaningful feedback to the adaptive resource management process (Aldridge et al. 2004a). Management efforts could be refined and improved through incorporation and application of knowledge gained from experimental manipulations. Objectives and strategies for recovery presented in Table 1 are based on cooperative, collaborative efforts by all sectors (wildlife and land managers, industry, agriculturists, and other wildlife enthusiasts) with a confirmed commitment to make an adaptive resource management process work.


Monitor Sage-Grouse populations and population parameters to evaluate progress towards population recovery and efficiency of recovery actions.

Annual spring lek surveys must be conducted to maintain a temporal index of population status and trends and to assess progress towards recovery goals. All occupied and, to the extent possible, abandoned leks should be monitored in accordance with accepted standards for lek monitoring (Connelly et al. 2004). Winter census techniques should be developed to provide baseline data on distribution and for an index of population recruitment and status. Efforts should be directed at using spring lek surveys in conjunction with winter population surveys to obtain non-intrusive indices to annual productivity and recruitment within Sage-Grouse populations.


Maintain the reproductive and genetic viability of Sage-Grouse populations or segments of populations in prairie Canada.

Genetic heterozygosity and gene flow within populations is critical for maintaining genetic viability of small populations (K. Bush pers. comm.). Fragmented populations with low genetic diversity may result in increased inbreeding and greater susceptibility to diseases and parasites (Oyler-McCance et al. 2005) or increased frequency of hybridization with sharp-tailed grouse (Aldridge et al. 2001). The boundaries of the northern Montana Sage-Grouse population, of which Canadian birds comprise a part, should be defined and habitat continuity maintained to ensure that genetic diversity and gene flow are not compromised. Currently, translocations are not generally accepted management practices since the size of populations are typically limited by the carrying capacity of existing habitats. However, the potential for, and the mechanics of Sage-Grouse translocations should be investigated. If populations or segments of populations are no longer considered to be genetically viable, or if catastrophic events occur (e.g., West Nile virus) that eliminate or endanger the viability of populations, translocation of birds from other portions of prairie Canada or other jurisdictions may be a valid and justifiable management option.


Determine the environmental and anthropogenic factors affecting Sage-Grouse life requisites that may have caused the post-1988 population declines, and may impede or contribute to population recovery in an effort to mitigate these factors, if possible, in the future.

Research to improve knowledge about Sage-Grouse and the relationship between Sage-Grouse and land and water use is essential to provide feedback for adaptive resource management principles. Best range management practices must be developed for maintenance of the cattle industry while providing optimal breeding, nesting, brood rearing and winter habitat for Sage-Grouse. There is a need to monitor and assess the impact of potentially fatal/adverse health threats, including West Nile virus, on Sage-Grouse populations. Developmental anomalies and associated reproductive success should be studied using eggs from failed or abandoned nests. Additionally, if eggshells are collected, excess samples should be saved for potential screening for heavy metals and other contaminants. The potential for use of fire to enhance Sage-Grouse habitat, especially through stimulation of silver sagebrush growth, should be explored. Many water control structures exist on the prairie landscape, altering the natural hydrology. The impacts of these actions on Sage-Grouse productivity, especially maintenance of sagebrush and mesic meadows, should be investigated. All existing programs, policies, and incentives related to agriculture and the petroleum industry should be examined to determine if there are adverse impacts on Sage-Grouse population maintenance and recovery efforts. Collaborative efforts with policy-makers and industries may be required to ensure that industries remain viable without adverse impact on Sage-Grouse recovery. Modeling of cumulative effects of all environmental and anthropogenic stressors is essential to understanding impacts on Sage-Grouse population sustainability.


Identify, secure and enhance habitat of significant importance to the Sage-Grouse annual life cycle.

The lack of quality winter habitat can be detrimental to annual survival and recruitment in Sage-Grouse populations (Moynahan et al. in press (b)). Little is known about winter habitat use by Sage-Grouse in Canada and analysis of existing data (Aldridge et al. 2004b) is critical. Additionally, an understanding of Sage-Grouse movement to winter habitat, distribution of winter habitat, and physical characteristics of habitat requirements throughout the Canadian range is needed. Habitat areas within Sage-Grouse range that are critical to survival and reproduction (breeding, nesting, brood-rearing and winter habitat) must be identified, enhanced, and protected.

Both Alberta and Saskatchewan have land-use guidelines related to activities around leks (Canadian Sage-Grouse Recovery Team 2001) however, there is a need to re-examine them and determine if they provide adequate protection. There are currently no land-use guidelines related to critical nesting, brood rearing, or winter habitat. Although not yet approved, the Alberta guidelines have recently been re-drafted and contain buffer distances and timing windows for critical nesting, brood rearing and winter habitat for Sage-Grouse (D. Eslinger, pers.comm., Alberta Sustainable Resource Development). Collaborative development of land-use guidelines should be pursued with the direct involvement of industry and other land users. Monitoring of land-use activities should occur to ensure compliance with guidelines.

Research indicates that Sage-Grouse use both source (net population gain) and sink (net population loss) habitats (Aldridge 2005). Only 11% of the southern Alberta landscape is considered source habitat for nesting and only 5% is quality source habitat for brood rearing (Aldridge 2005). The majority of habitat used by Sage-Grouse is sink habitat. There is a need to identify all existing source and sink habitat within the current range of Sage-Grouse. Source habitats should be protected and managed to maintain or improve annual productivity. Sink habitats should be evaluated to determine factors that inhibit productivity and cooperative efforts with land users should be undertaken to convert sink habitat into source habitat.

The spatial distribution of Sage-Grouse in Canada has decreased substantially from historical periods (Canadian Sage-Grouse Recovery Team 2001). Unoccupied Sage-Grouse habitat should be evaluated for deficiencies and management efforts should be directed at modification of habitat to encourage population expansion into historic range.

Although knowledge about the cause of Sage-Grouse population declines and the relationships between Sage-Grouse and land use practices is far from comprehensive (Aldridge 2005, Connelly et al. 2004), this should not hamper implementation of well designed management actions directed at recovery. Initiatives should include resources for monitoring and evaluation to provide feedback into the adaptive management process.


Develop and maintain broad sector support for Sage-Grouse recovery and conservation efforts.

Recovery efforts can be more successful with broad sector support for conservation initiatives. Information and educational material should be developed to encourage awareness and support for Sage-Grouse conservation and recovery across all sectors of the general public. Information and extension efforts should be directed towards all land users, including industry, to encourage protection and enhancement of Sage-Grouse habitat and to take steps to minimize disturbance impacts. One example of some broader initiatives is the United States Geological Survey (2006) Sagemap website which is a gateway for current spatial data used in research and management of Sage-Grouse and shrub steppe systems. Additionally, the Local Working Group Locator Project (RS/GIS Laboratory 2006) is a forum for working groups, government and non-government agencies to catalogue and share Sage-Grouse conservation and habitat management information. Wherever possible, direct involvement of land users in conservation initiatives should be encouraged. Community-based initiatives result in shared ownership, shared goals, and shared successes.


Integrate Sage-Grouse recovery efforts into broader conservation planning programs for prairie grassland species and prairie conservation initiatives.

The Sage-Grouse is sagebrush obligate species that shares the sagebrush-grassland prairie habitat with other wildlife species that are at risk. Land use issues relevant to management of habitat for Sage-Grouse may be common to other prairie wildlife species. Efforts to enhance populations of Sage-Grouse should be coordinated with other initiatives or programs relevant to sustainable management of the prairie ecosystem. An important collaborative prairie conservation initiative is Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA)’s conservation assessment of the Greater Sage-Grouse and its habitat of which Phase I is an assessment of Greater Sage-Grouse populations and sagebrush ranges (Connelly et al. 2004). Phase II is a conservation strategy for Greater Sage-Grouse and sagebrush ranges that encompasses the entire historical distribution of potential sagebrush habitat (Stiver et al. 2006).

The WAFWA conservation goals involve local, state, provincial, and agency conservation strategies in addition to regional and range-wide strategies in an effort to augment and facilitate other conservation plans and strategies (Stiver et al. 2006). The conservation strategy proposes seven management zones that are biologically based Sage-Grouse and sagebrush areas which typically cross jurisdictional boundaries, thus necessitating continued collaboration and coordination for effective adaptive management (Stiver et al. 2006). Ultimately, the goal of the Strategy is to have positive or neutral population trends in all of the Management Zones by 2025.

Another important collaborative recovery initiative is the Alberta Greater Sage-Grouse Recovery Plan 2005-2010 written by the Alberta Sage Grouse Recovery Action Group (Alberta SGRAG 2005). The primary goal for this plan integrates well with this strategy and is quoted as follows:

1. Enhance and maintain habitat for Sage-Grouse to satisfy life cycle requirements in support of a viable population within its remaining historical range.

Whenever appropriate or practical, efforts will be made to coordinate with the Province of Alberta’s recovery objectives outlined by the Alberta SGRAG (2005).

Specifically:

  • Protect known current and historical lek sites.
  • Enhance brooding, rearing and wintering habitat.
  • Manage for appropriate range health on both public and private lands.
  • Restore and enhance habitat quality through appropriate range management practices.
  • Review effectiveness of current guidelines for oil and gas development on native prairie in relation to Sage-Grouse and amend as necessary.
  • Disseminate information on the effects of industrial activities, grazing practices and recreational activities on Sage-Grouse.


2.5 Knowledge gaps

Knowledge gaps:

  • Lack of monitoring data on population recruitment as well as winter census methodologies
  • Genetic viability and connectivity of prairie Sage-Grouse and the need to refine translocation methodology and develop the necessary expertise
  • Best range management practices, cumulative effects, and natural processes that sustain silver sage habitats and the mitigation of anthropogenic changes and health threats
  • Clarification of the factors causing the recent decline in Sage-Grouse and the specific habitat restoration required to generate more source habitat
  • Location of winter habitat


2.6 Critical habitat

Critical habitat cannot be identified for the Sage-Grouse at this time. While a considerable amount is known about Sage-Grouse habitat requirements, several knowledge gaps and technical activities must be addressed before critical habitat can be identified.

Partial identification will be based on currently available information and information that will be available from ongoing studies (initial results available as of March 2008). The general approach to identify Sage-Grouse critical habitat will be to use the nesting and brood rearing habitat model in Aldridge (2005) and extrapolate it to the recent historic distribution of sage grouse in Alberta and Saskatchewan. When available, recent information on wintering habitat will be added to this model. Only partial critical habitat identification is possible, as the information necessary for this model does not exist for the entire recent historic Saskatchewan distribution. Additionally, ongoing research is contributing new information on Sage Grouse habitat requirements.

A schedule of studies and supporting activities including an approach for consultation has been prepared. Completion of these steps should enable the identification of partial critical habitat in an addendum posted in December 2008. It is expected that with new information the majority of existing critical habitat in Alberta and Saskatchewan will be identified. Information on habitat requirements from studies in progress will facilitate our understanding of Sage Grouse habitat requirements. Comprehensive identification of critical habitat, necessary for the recovery of the species, will probably contain degraded habitat. Plans for restoring Sage-Grouse habitat will be part of the action plan.

2.6.1 Schedule of studies to identify critical habitat

 

Table 2. Schedule of studies
ActionCompletion Date

1) Synthesize the best available knowledge about the species’ life history, population ecology, and habitat requirements.

  • Integrate existing information into a cumulative effects assessment of human disturbance. This would include the identification of knowledge gaps and future research and monitoring priorities. This would contribute to the development of best management practices and environmental assessment mitigations to be used in critical habitat management.
Fall 2007

2) Locate the species and appropriate habitat.

  • Compile historical information of the Saskatchewan lek (active and inactive) and observation database.
  • Conduct a population study(s) to determine winter habitat, and confirm the nesting and brood rearing habitat use relationships developed by Aldridge (2005) in other parts of the species distribution.
  • Compile the Geographic information system (GIS) base information needed to extrapolate the nesting and brood rearing habitat developed by Aldridge (2005) to the rest of the Albertan and Saskatchewan recent historic distribution to the extent that existing information allows
  • Where data is incomplete (e.g. air photo mapping of the distribution of silver sage for parts of Saskatchewan), the necessary GIS data will be developed as part of future planning/critical habitat identifications.
  • Use existing information and new information from ongoing population studies to identify the location of sage grouse wintering habitat.
Draft maps March 2008.
3) Post a partial critical habitat identification addendumDecember 2008

4) Stakeholder Consultation on the action plan.

  • Consult with stakeholder representatives in communities proximal to Canadian Sage-Grouse habitat on the proposed action plan.
  • Gather information on the potential socio-economic impacts (positive and negative) of various critical habitat designation options and develop strategies for mitigating the socio-economic impact. Use this process with stakeholders to inform the larger socio-economic analyses.
  • Evaluate the potential ecological, social, and economic impacts and mitigations for critical habitat identification, protection, enhancement, and management.
November 2008 – April 2009
5) Final Draft Action Plan Ready for Final Review/ApprovalJuly 2011

 

2.7 Effects on other species

Please refer to the Strategic environmental assessment (Forrestall 2006) summary at the beginning of this document.


2.8 Statement on action plans

The identification of partial critical habitat will be made in a recovery strategy addendum posted in December 2008. A draft action plan will be ready for approval in July 2011. Within the next 5 years the focus will be on critical habitat, research, and partnerships. The complete action plan for Sage-Grouse will be a cooperative effort when and if possible for all jurisdictions involved.