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Wildlife Society Bulletin






John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License


Delineation, protection, and restoration of habitats provide the basis for endangered and threatened species recovery plans. Species recovery plans typically contain guidelines that provide managers with a scientific basis to designate and manage critical habitats. As such, habitat guidelines are best developed using data that capture the full diversity of ecological and environmental conditions that provide habitat across the species’ range. However, when baseline information, which fails to capture habitat diversity, is used to develop guidelines, inconsistencies and problems arise when applying those guidelines to habitats within an ecologically diverse landscape. Greater sage‐grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; sage‐ grouse) populations in Utah, USA, reflect this scenario—published range‐wide habitat guidelines developed through a literature synthesis did not include data from the full range of the species. Although all sage‐ grouse are considered sagebrush obligates (Artemisia spp.), the species occupies a diversity of sagebrush communities from shrub‐dominated semideserts in the southwest to more perennial grass‐dominated sagebrush‐steppe in the northeast portions of their distribution. Concomitantly, local ecological site and environmental conditions may limit the ability of managers to achieve broader range‐wide habitat guidelines. We combined microsite habitat vegetation parameters from radiomarked sage‐grouse nest and brood locations with state‐wide spatially continuous vegetation, climatic, and elevation data in a cluster analysis to develop empirically based sage‐grouse habitat guidelines that encompass the range of ecological and environmental variation across Utah. Using this novel approach, we identified 3 distinct clusters of sage‐grouse breeding (i.e., nesting and early brood‐rearing) and late brood‐rearing habitats in Utah. For each cluster, we identified specific vegetation recommendations that managers can use to assess sage‐grouse breeding and late brood‐rearing habitat. Our results provide relevant guidelines to Utah’s sage‐grouse populations and are feasible given the unique ecological variation found therein. This approach may have application to other species that occupy diverse habitats and physiographic regions.