Habitat Suitability for Greater Sage-grouse in Oil and Gas Developed Areas in North Dakota and Montana
The historical range of greater sage-grouse has been dramatically reduced since European settlement (Connelly and Braun 1997, Schroeder et al. 2004). The range of greater sage-grouse (sage-grouse hereafter) has been reduced by 45% across North America (Schroeder et al. 2004) with an estimated range-wide population decline of 45-80% and local declines of 17-92% (Aldridge and Brigham 2002, Aldridge 1998). The distribution of sage-grouse is clearly associated with the distribution of sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) and sage-grouse are year-round obligates of sagebrush communities (Paige and Ritter 1999, Schroeder et al.2004). Reduced sage-grouse populations are intimately linked to widespread degradation of sagebrush vegetation communities. The direct and indirect causes of habitat degradation for sage-grouse are associated with altered fire regimes (Wrobleski and Kauffman 2003), grazing and agriculture, urbanization, and oil and gas extraction (Connelly et al. 2004). Oil and gas development is the most recent and least understood impact on sage-grouse and their habitat. Since economic production of oil and gas are predicted to continue for 20 – 100 years (Connelly et al. 2004), it is important to understand these impacts. Once understood, it will be possible to plan future resource development in ways that least impact sage-grouse populations.