COS 5-1 - Multi-objective optimization of conservation easements for sage grouse

Monday, August 8, 2016: 1:30 PM
Floridian Blrm BC, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center


Claire A Runge, UCSB; Joseph E. Fargione, The Nature Conservancy; John C. Withey, Florida International University; Joshua J. Lawler, University of Washington; Andrew J. Plantinga, UCSB


The Sage Grouse Initiative, has targeted hundreds of millions of dollars of conservation investments on millions of hectares on private rangeland since it started in 2010. We explore how to target that conservation spending in a way that benefit not only sage grouse but other wildlife, economic productivity and other ecosystem services such as carbon storage and water provision. Because the Sage Grouse Initiative works with the ranching community in a complex political environment, this multiple benefits approach is essential to maintain political and community support for sage grouse conservation. Using conservation planning software Marxan with Zones we explore the tradeoffs across four states in the US – Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Utah. We identify where to target easements and other investments in improved management in a way that benefit sage grouse and other wildlife, maximize ecosystem services, whilst limiting impact on economic productivity in the region.


We show that sage grouse conservation can provide benefits to a large number of species of conservation concern. However, not all species benefit from sage grouse conservation and we find that a third of species may require conservation effort outside the sage grouse umbrella. We find a worrying increase in habitat loss under future scenarios of land use change. Targeted land use planning can reduce that loss by almost 15% while maintaining economic productivity throughout the region. Using future scenarios of human patterns of land use we pinpoint hotspots where conflict between wildlife conservation and economic activities such as agricultural and urban expansion will need to be managed.