This project initially focused on the mapping and inventory of springs, seeps and reservoirs in sage-grouse core habitat within the Ruby Priority Area. In recent years, efforts have expanded across a larger landscape and data analyses have been initiated to guide future conservation efforts. All data gathered is being used, in combination with sage-grouse leks, wintering areas, concentration areas, severe winter relief, brood-rearing habitat and vegetation modeling, to prioritize areas for spring or reservoir development to aide in sage-grouse habitat conservation.
Since 2011, WLCI funds have supported an intern to locate natural water sources, map the perimeter, and document the species using each water source. As of 2014, 262 reservoirs, comprising 156 acres, have been mapped and inventoried. In addition, 71 springs and seeps, comprising 123 acres, have been mapped and inventoried within the priority area. Monitoring and inventory was focused in one allotment within the Ruby Priority Area as well as two allotments outside the priority area in 2013. Using data collected from this project, in combination with USGS sagebrush models, existing BLM data and WGFD wildlife observations, BLM was able to create a brood-rearing habitat model. Adding new information to the model will increase model accuracy and allow for more informed future decisions. USGS plans to contribute to inventory and mapping efforts in future years.
This project addresses the CCNR Geographic Priority Area’s sensitive species issue because it helps to protect critical sage-grouse brood rearing habitat. Reducing or eliminating the possibility of losing water sources helps to ensure the sustainability of numerous fish and wildlife populations in the area in addition to sage-grouse. For example, there are a few known locations of northern leopard frogs within the project area. The identification of water sources and the species using that source could reveal new population locations, and could eventually help keep species from federal listing. Understanding water use in the area may allow the BLM to work with other groups and landowners/permitees to develop strategies that encourage responsible water use for all species.