The sagebrush ecosystem is one of the largest ecosystems in western North America and it provides habitat for many mammal, bird, and reptile species including the greater sage grouse. Sage grouse population declines of 2% per year have occurred over the last several decades. Sage grouse need large, intact patches of habitat, so activities that break them into smaller patches effectively reduce habitat. Human activities and developments can alter the amount and quality of sage-grouse habitat in several ways. Development associated with oil and natural gas extraction is an increasing threat to sagebrush habitats as the number of wells associated with oil and natural gas extraction increase across the landscape. Construction of oil and gas wells results in the direct loss of sagebrush, but impacts have negative consequences at larger scales than the well pad and after drilling is complete, including alteration due to road and pipeline construction and changes in wildlife behavior. Factors that degrade sage-grouse habitat include noise and activities that disturb the birds, damage to vegetation from trampling, dust raised by traffic on nearby dirt roads, wildfire, prescription burns that do not take sage-grouse habitat into consideration, and more.
Investigating the Influences of Oil and Gas Development on Greater Sage Grouse
Human activities and developments can alter the amount and quality of the greater sage grouse habitats through disturbance from noise and activities; fragmentation of habitat patches; increases in invasive plants; and changes in predator populations. Survival and reproduction of sage grouse may be affected both directly and indirectly by energy development.
Bureau of Land Management
Colorado State University
Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Our findings contribute to the growing number of studies suggesting oil and gas development has negative effects on sage-grouse populations and indicate that current regulations may only be sufficient for limiting population declines but not for reversing these trends. Additionally, areas not protected may experience larger increases in oil and gas development and, therefore, larger declines in sage grouse populations.
- The density of oil and gas development within 6.4 km of leks affected male sage grouse attendance at those leks.
- Lek attendance was lower where development density was greater and vice versa.
- Model sage grouse population dynamics to identify populations contributing to statewide population increases or decreases.
- Evaluate potential effects of climate variations and energy development on population persistence.