Wild Utah Project has been collaborating with our chief partners, USDA Agricultural Research Services and Utah State University, on a long-term large scale research study since 2009. We are investigating the interaction between mechanical sagebrush treatments and the return of cattle grazing. The results of this study fill a significant gap in the sagebrush ecosystem restoration literature and have implications for sage-grouse habitats. The long-term field site is located on Kennecott Utah Copper lands on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley, where a single grazing permittee who grazes most of the east sagebrush-filled bench of the Oquirrh Mountains is a willing partner to a 160 acre, 20+ year grazing study.
Alongside our conservation partners, we amassed over 6 years worth of meticulously collected field data to make our case that the habitat needs of many species of native wildlife (including greater sage-grouse) were not being met on the Duck Creek grazing allotment, located east of Bear Lake, Utah. Upon the presentation of vegetation data and analyses in a Department of Interior's Office of Hearings Appeal, the grazing decision at the time was reversed, as it did not taking into consideration the negative implications of such activities on greater sage-grouse habitat. To learn more about the field data summary and the Department of the Interior's decision click here.
Wild Utah Project and some of our conservation partners are reviewing the new Sage-Grouse Habitat Assessment Framework (HAF) issued by the federal agencies that manage much of the sage-grouse habitat in the West (chiefly the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management). While this method is in some ways a tried and true method for measuring the needs of sage-grouse in terms of habitat structure (using common methods such as the vegetation 'line intercept' method), in other ways we are finding that it sometimes misses the mark (like not requiring that practitioners report the height of grasses protected from grazing under the shrubs separately from the grasses out in the open that are grazed). We are now working on a 'technical note' describing some of the findings regarding the HAF.