The range-wide monitoring program for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) plays an important role in landscape conservation initiatives for the recovery of this species. Methodologies to evaluate the species' responses to habitat conditions and conservation practices are necessary to evaluate the success of these initiatives. We adapted the design of the range-wide monitoring program and applied a multiscale occupancy model. The objectives were to (1) estimate occupancy at multiple spatial scales and (2) conduct an exploratory evaluation of responses to habitat condition and conservation practices at multiple spatial scales. The application of the model to a single year of data from the range-wide monitoring program yielded a coefficient of variation (CV) of large-scale occupancy of 17%. The CVs of small-scale occupancy for the 4 ecoregions ranged between 21% and 52% and were acceptable for detecting differences between strata. We used the method of multiple working hypotheses and predictions from fitted models to evaluate a priori how a subset of habitat configuration and anthropogenic practices potentially affect site occupancy at multiple spatial scales. We derived a subset of habitat configuration and anthropogenic conservation covariates based on the 15 × 15 km grid cells and 7.5 × 7.5 km quadrants. Our results show that Lesser Prairie-Chicken occupancy was positively affected by increased mean patch size of native land cover in the landscape, and by the percentage of land enrolled in prescribed grazing at the large scale (225 km2) and in the Conservation Reserve Program at the small scale (56 km2).
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Vol. 118 • No. 3