Data Needs Assessment Assists with Sage Grouse Conservation

Client: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Location: Eastern Oregon

The rugged sagebrush ecosystem, home of the sage grouse, is the most widespread in the intermountain lowlands of the western United States, but it is also one of the most imperiled. Lack of protection and the continued erosion of the sagebrush landscape has endangered the bird, and efforts to conserve it have proven controversial.

However, there are many people working collaboratively to help the sage grouse thrive. In Eastern Oregon, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) partner with private landowners to protect, improve, and manage sage grouse habitat on private lands as part of the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAAs) program, a voluntary federal initiative that supports private landowners who wish to improve habitat on their lands. USFWS, the SWCDs, and landowners work together to identify threats to the sage grouse, and then design and implement conservation measures and monitor their effectiveness.

Through the CCAAs program, the organizations collect a large amount of information on the health of the local sagebrush ecosystem and sage grouse populations. To make sense of the collected data, streamline workflows, and make reporting more efficient, USFWS asked FLO to assist with a needs assessment to determine how best to create an integrated data management and reporting system (a database) that would ultimately increase the effectiveness of sage grouse conservation work.

The FLO team began the needs assessment by identifying the various end use requirements of the SWCDs (the organizations in charge of implementing and monitoring the CCAAs), then evaluated these against existing data capabilities to identify necessary functional requirements (i.e., software, hardware), ending with a suggested implementation strategy for any upgraded technology required.

Our final product for the client was a comprehensive assessment of the data needs required to further sage grouse conservation efforts. USFWS and its partners will use the assessment to guide them in implementing more strategic data management practices and provide a use-case argument when pursuing funding to pay for increased data capabilities.

After the project was completed, our client contact, Sage-Steppe Coordinator Jeff Everett, shared that “the needs assessment report was very well received by the SWCDs and associated staff and partners” and that “the CCAAs database has become one of, if not the highest priority need, identified by the SWCDs and the staff working on the CCAAs.”

 

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Jennifer Axelrod

Senior GIS Analyst

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