New Science to Solutions Report: High-Resolution Maps Sharpen Focus On Sage Grouse Habitat
April 13, 2015
This new Science to Solutions publication is the 7th in the series featured on the SGI website.
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For Immediate Release:
A new Science to Solutions report explains how an emerging technology can help managers assess vegetation for the benefit of sage grouse and livestock. A new technique called Earth Sense Technology (EST) is an efficient way to assess range conditions at a large or small scale by using high-res photos and satellite imagery.
The NRCS-led Sage Grouse Initiative and the BLM have used EST to map rangeland cover on nine sage grouse-related projects totaling six million acres in four western states. For instance, in Montana, SGI has mapped 500,000 acres to evaluate grazing strategies to benefit sage grouse and livestock.
This mapping tool allows managers to better see, quantify, and understand the big picture of how grouse choose seasonal habitats. “We are using these photos to assess percent ground cover at a very fine scale,” explains Eric Sant, Geospatial Analyst with Open Range Consulting, Inc. (ORC), the group that developed EST. “They are legacy images—you can go back to a photo and reinterpret it for plant species, or to compare to later images for changes over time.”
This new technique combines ground-based, high-resolution photo plots with aerial and satellite imagery to create cover maps that deliver spatial data with great detail and accuracy. “If we combine these maps with sage grouse telemetry data, we can start making assessments at different scales,” suggests Sant. EST provides context for landscape-scale habitat patterns, as well as fine-scale characteristics at a nest or brood-rearing site.
ORC estimates that a range assessment using this EST technique costs a fraction of assessments that use more time-intensive, traditional field methods. Because the process of acquiring GBVP photo plots is relatively low cost, very large areas can be sampled and interpreted efficiently.
The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.