I thank each of the team members for taking on the laborious task to evaluate surrogate species for the Great Plains – LCC. Following review of the GP-LCC Surrogate Species document (dated 15 Nov 2013), Species Template, and literature/policy review, these comments were developed for your consideration.
• Six habitat types were identified as potential priorities within the GP-LCC area (short and mixed-grass prairies, playa wetlands, riparian streams, prairie rivers, cross timbers, and savanna, scrublands’ and sand dune [are these not three themselves?]). Among the six habitat types identified as potential priorities within the GP-LCC, five had priority habitats and related species discussed; however, Cross Timbers does not have any discussion regarding habitat or relates species. Also, non-playa wetlands and saline lakes were added in the narratives but, they were not previously listed as potential priority habitats. It appears that priority habitats in this landscape need better definition. I note that three priority habitats (riparian stream, prairie rivers, and cross timbers) within the GP-LCC are not represented in the Llano Estacado sub-geography.
• Bailey (1998) describes at least six Ecosystem Provinces in the GP-LCC. While I understand the intent to divide the GP-LCC into sub-geography to accomplish the task at hand, it would be beneficial to understand how this sub-geography was selected and to include discussion about other sub-geography endeavors planned for the future. Only for note, selection of sub-geography by ecoregional boundaries, as described by either Ricketts (1999) or Bailey (1998), would have included more priority habitats.
• Reviewing “Guidance on Selecting Species for Design of Landscape-scale Conservation” it appears the intent is to select coarse-scale species that represent landscape-scale condition indicators. Occasionally certain species (e.g., threatened and endangered species) “fall through” the coarse filter and require specific targets to meet the needs of this species’ recovery. The population and distribution of fine-scale species may not be representative of the landscape condition. Coarse/fine-filter landscape conservation is discussed by numerous ecologists (Cowling etal 2004, Desmet and Cowling 2004, Groves etal 2002, Parrish etal 2003, Reyers etal 2001, Su etal 2004, Schwartz 1999, (selected references, bibliography available on request)). Several species on this proposed list are T&E species with detailed recovery plans. I believe guidance would exclude their use as landscape surrogate species.
• Prairie dogs may be a species in peril (as demonstrated by reoccurring T&E candidate species status) but, are they good surrogate species? Fire, grazing, and pyric-herbivory (the interaction of fire and grazing) contribute to habitat structure and diversity, similar to that represented in prairie dog colonies. Many of the species listed as “dependent upon prairie dogs” can also be found on...