PCW begins sage-grouse monitoring program
as part of comprehensive wildlife conservation plan
April 7, 2010 – Continuing to advance the implementation of its wildlife conservation plan, Power Company of Wyoming LLC this week began a significant multi-year greater sage-grouse monitoring program at its wind power project site.
Forty female sage-grouse on The Overland Trail Cattle Company ranch are being tagged with lightweight GPS devices that will provide scientific data and insight into seasonal habitat uses by the species.
The tagged sage-grouse will come from both within and outside of the proposed development area for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. Seasonal usage in the early stages of the monitoring effort will serve as a pre-development baseline to which future use of the wind development area by sage-grouse can be compared.
Designed by expert wildlife biologists at SWCA Environmental Consultants, the tagging and monitoring program uses proven capture techniques, established industry protocols, and GPS technology successfully deployed in other state wildlife programs. It is just one element of a comprehensive wildlife conservation plan that PCW and TOTCO have submitted to state and federal agencies to guide conservation measures accommodating ongoing ranching/agricultural operations and wind development.
“Sage-grouse are concentrated near leks in the spring, so now is the best and least disruptive time to begin our ongoing monitoring program,” said Garry Miller, PCW’s director of land and environmental affairs. “The important data we’ll gather in year one will help us begin to understand patterns of habitat use and future trends in mortality, nest success, recruitment, migration and other factors within the population, over the next decade.”
The tiny GPS tags weigh the equivalent of five nickels and a penny, have a mini photovoltaic cell to recharge internal batteries for up to 5 years, can be quickly deployed with minimal stress to the birds, and are designed to minimize visibility to predators. They record altitude, heading and speed that identify migratory pathways and overall use of the landscape.
The valuable scientific data that the tags gather from each sage-grouse each day will be relayed via satellite to the biologist team. Then, biologists will complete a variety of standard statistical and spatial analyses to, among other goals:
- Identify the factors that determine use of an area by sage-grouse.
- Help determine locations for additional conservation and habitat improvement projects.
- Monitor the success of conservation and habitat improvement projects.
- Demonstrate the relative use of the wind development areas to enable a better understanding of how grouse in the assessment area and populations as a whole respond following wind project development.
“Coupled with our conservation measures, this solid, science-based monitoring program will ensure we’re achieving our goal of a net conservation benefit to sage-grouse,” Miller said.
Besides the monitoring program, PCW and TOTCO have other wildlife conservation efforts under way as part of their overall environmental commitment, including:
- Installing dozens of bird diverters on the guy wires for all new meteorological towers, which are located on the ranch to gather vital data about the wind resources. Diverters are intended to reduce the potential risk of collision and avian mortality.
- Marking fences across the ranch to reduce the potential risk of sage-grouse mortality.
- Identifying fences across the ranch to be moved or eliminated altogether.
- Identifying ranch roads to be closed and reclaimed.
- Designing metal-mesh bird ladders to be built and installed in stock tanks across the ranch, making it easier for sage-grouse or other species to obtain drinking water while also reducing the risk of drowning.
Power Company of Wyoming LLC is a wholly owned affiliate of The Anschutz Corporation, a privately held company based in Denver. Through its affiliates, The Anschutz Corporation has been actively involved in the West for more than 70 years in the field of natural resource development. The Anschutz Corporation’s activity and investments in the energy field reflect a strong commitment to responsibly developing and managing natural resources. For more information, visit www.powercompanyofwyoming.com.
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BLM Wyoming cites PCW efforts in its BLM Fact Sheet about "ongoing collaborative sage-grouse conservation initiatives."
A video overview of PCW's wind power project is now online.
Members of the media with inquiries about the PCW wind energy project
, Director of Communications, 303.299.1395.
BLM Environmental Assessments
From 2013-2015, BLM prepared two separate site-specific Environmental Assessments, both tiered to the project-wide Environmental Impact Statement completed in 2012. Review our archives of the BLM’s public scoping documents: