GFP/USFWS Collaboration Wins Award

July 26, 2022

PIERRE, S.D. - A collaborative project between the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding prairie grouse population and distribution estimates have garnered the two agencies The Wildlife Society's "Wildlife Restoration Award".

The research project was spearheaded by Travis Runia (GFP), Alex Solem (GFP), Neal D. Niemuth (USFWS), and Kevin W. Barnes (USFWS).

GFP Wildlife Program Administrator, Chad Switzer, nominated the project for the award.

"The conversion of native grasslands to cropland, energy development, habitat fragmentation, and certain woody habitat plantings and encroachment in both Dakotas can present challenges to prairie grouse. This study provided a more efficient and robust method of predicting prairie grouse distribution for targeting habitat conservation," Switzer said.

Runia further explained the project.

"Traditionally, we survey grouse in both Dakota's by surveying leks. Although the survey results may give insight into local populations, they have limited utility in estimating statewide abundances or trends because survey blocks are often non‐random, biased toward high quality habitat, and lack adequate spatial coverage. To improve upon current methods, we surveyed male prairie grouse on 865 randomly selected Public Land Survey Sections from 2010–2016, then developed habitat‐based spatially explicit occurrence and density models, which we then applied to the universe of environmental predictors to create spatial maps."

The project was a big undertaking, not only for the project coordinators, but everyone involved.

"Congratulations to everyone involved in this project, the project investigators, the numerous field staff that spent countless hours early in the morning collecting data, and the generous landowners who provided permission to make this project possible. To my knowledge, nothing of this scope has ever been done for prairie grouse," Switzer said. "The results of this project will help protect, conserve, and restore grassland habitats and the species that depend upon them for years to come".


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