Icon of Western sagebrush landscapes
Current BLM management policy for preserving and managing Greater sage-grouse habitat is based on three principles:
- Protecting unfragmented habitats,
- Minimizing habitat loss and fragmentation, and
- Managing habitats to maintain, enhance or restore conditions that meet the sage-grouse's life-history needs.
The policy directs field-level officials to apply specific policies and procedures across multiple programs when considering any public-land activites that could affect the sage-grouse or its habitat.
Interim Management POLICY :: 2012-2014
Managing Grazing in Sage-grouse Habitat
Depending on habitat condition and practices used, livestock grazing
can either have localized adverse effects on habitat or can be a tool for protecting intact habitat or increasing its extent and continuity.
Land health is habitat protection
Managing public lands to meet rangeland health standards is also managing for the maintenance, enhancement and restoration of sage-grouse habitat. In this way, managing livestock grazing in and around priority sage-grouse habitat it a prime example of the multiple-use mandate Congress assigned the BLM in the Federal Land Policy and Managment Act (FLPMA).
Rangeland health standards – developed collaboratively with stakeholders for each State – are an important tool for ensuring that grazing practices protect priority habitat and minimize the adverse effects that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found are the primary threats to the species. Using rangeland health objectives to reduce threats to sage-grouse also helps preserve the future viability of multiple use on public rangelands.
BLM policy directs field staff and managers to analyze and document direct, indirect and cumulative effects of livestock grazing on Greater sage-grouse and its habitats when planning and authorizing grazing and any associated range improvements.
When the BLM considers permit renewals, the environmental analysis must cover a range of alternatives that would improve sage-grouse habitat. The range of alternatives must "rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives" that meet the purpose of and need for the action.
In the past, planning for and analyzing the effects of livestock grazing was done at a local scale, most often allotment by allotment. Efforts to protect sage-grouse habitat in the context of multiple use emphasize the need to take a landscape-scale look, to see how various uses and activities may inter-relate.
The BLM Owyhee Field Office is analyzed the potential environmental effects of renewing grazing permits on about 25 allotments in the Jump Creek, Succor Creek and Cow Creek watersheds in southwestern Owyhee County, Idaho, in an environmental impact statement (EIS).
The EIS explores the relationship among authorized livestock grazing, rangeland health, other uses of the lands in the allotments, and natural events like wildfires. There are 5 alternatives, ranging from No Action (Alt. 1) to No Grazing (Alt. 5). Alts. 3, 4 and 5 either actively or passively conserve, enhance or restore sage-grouse habitat within the allotments. |> Read & Comment on the EIS
Maintaining and restoring high-quality habitat for Greater sage-grouse is part of the BLM's mission.
Conserving these habitats is important for people with any number of interests: wildlife, energy production and security, agriculture and livestock, recreation, and the vitality and well-being of the West's communities.
Managing the public lands to benefit sage-grouse ultimately benefits all users of these lands.
Portions of 14 Western states once provided year-round food, shelter and breeding grounds for Centrocercus urophasianus, the Greater sage-grouse. Pressure from urbanization, wildfire, recreation, energy development, livestock grazing, invasive weeds and disease have shrunk these historical habitats, such that only portions of 11 states still have lands for the bird to call home. As a result, their numbers have declined by about 40% since the 1970s. As few as 200,000 may be left.
As manager of more remaining Greater sage-grouse habitat than any other government agency, the BLM is taking a coordinated, Bureau-wide approach to protecting intact habitat, avoiding or minimizing further habitat loss, and managing habitats to restore or maintain favorable conditions.