Little information is available on the use of areas enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) by Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) or the impacts of grazing on their habitat selection and movement patterns. Using radiotelemetry, we monitored 13 Gunnison sage-grouse in San Juan County, Utah, USA during 2001–2002 to determine their use of CRP. Additionally, in 2002 some of the CRP land used by the birds in 2001 was grazed under a drought emergency declaration. This afforded us an opportunity to monitor their response to livestock grazing. Although Gunnison sage-grouse used CRP for nesting, brood-rearing, and summer habitat, it was not selected in greater proportion than its availability (P ≤ 0.10) on the landscape. Bird-use sites in the CRP did not entirely meet habitat guidelines recommended by the Gunnison sage-grouse Rangewide Steering Committee (2005). Most of the sage-grouse we monitored avoided CRP fields when livestock were present. The one exception to this was a hen with a brood. We believe long-term maintenance of CRP in San Juan County will result in achieving habitat conditions that are more desirable for Gunnison sage-grouse. Future livestock management practices in areas used by Gunnison sage-grouse should incorporate short-term, high-intensity deferred-grazing rotations.
Conservation Reserve Program