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Sage-Grouse and Sagebrush Conservation

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have finalized land use plans that will conserve key sagebrush habitat, address identified threats to the greater sage-grouse and promote sustainable economic development in the West. The plans were a critical component that helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to conclude that the rangeland bird no longer warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Greater sage-grouse habitat covers 165 million acres across 11 states in the West, a loss of 56% from the species’ historic range. At one time, the greater sage-grouse population likely numbered in the millions, but is estimated to have dwindled to 200,000 to 500,000 individuals range-wide.

As part of an unprecedented and proactive partnership to conserve the uniquely American habitat that supports iconic wildlife, outdoor recreation, ranching and other traditional land uses, the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service continue to work together to ensure the conservation of the west’s sagebrush habitats.    We are also working closely with the States as we finalize our plans so all of our conservation efforts are closely coordinated.   The States manage the bird itself, as well as significant amounts of its habitat. 

 Greater Sage-Grouse

The BLM, in cooperation with the Forest Service and its partners, has finalized and approved a series of land use plans for the areas they manage. These plans all anticipate ongoing relationships with our cooperators and partners in designing and implementing greater sage-grouse conservation actions.  To learn more about the plans, read our Fact Sheet.

The plans focus on conserving Priority Habitat areas that have been identified as having the highest value to maintaining the species and its habitat.  Land use measures in Priority Habitat are designed to minimize or avoid habitat disturbance. Within Priority Habitat, specific areas have been identified as Sagebrush Focal Areas.  The Sagebrush Focal Areas are important landscape blocks with high breeding population densities of sage-grouse and existing high quality sagebrush. The plans also designate General Habitat Management Areas, which provide greater flexibility for land use activities. 

The plans contain three common approaches:

  • Minimizing new or additional surface disturbance – The plans seek to reduce habitat fragmentation and protect intact habitat by implementing surface disturbance caps on development, minimizing surface occupancy from energy development, and identifying buffer distances around leks - areas critical to the sage-grouse life-cycle.
  • Improving habitat condition – While restoring lost sagebrush habitat can be difficult in the short term, it is often possible to enhance habitat quality through purposeful management. Where there are unavoidable impacts to habitat from development, the plans will require mitigation efforts to enhance and improve sage-grouse habitat.
  • Reduce threat of rangeland fire – Rangeland fire can lead to the conversion of previously healthy sagebrush habitat into non-native, cheatgrass-dominated landscapes. Experts have identified fire as one of the greatest threats to sagebrush habitat, particularly in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California. The plans seek to fight the spread of cheatgrass and other invasive species, position wildland fire management resources for more effective rangeland fire response, and accelerate the restoration of fire-impacted landscapes to native grasses and sagebrush. 

Individual state plans contain variations where different approaches or priorities were consistent with overall conservation objectives.  The plans honor all valid, existing rights, including those for oil and gas development, renewable energy, rights-of-way, locatable minerals, and other permitted projects.

To access the Records of Decision (RODs) finalizing the land use plans, click on the links below:

Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments for the Great Basin Region, Including the Greater Sage-Grouse Sub-Regions of Idaho and Southwestern Montana,
Nevada and Northeastern California, Oregon, Utah
, September 2015 (PDF 3.2 MB)

Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments for the Rocky Mountain Region, Including the Greater Sage-Grouse Sub-Regions of Lewistown, North Dakota, Northwest Colorado, Wyoming, and the Approved Resource Management Plans for Billings, Buffalo, Cody, HiLine, Miles City, Pompeys Pillar National Monument, South Dakota, Worland, September 2015 (PDF 3.5 MB)

For state-specific information about our land use plans, click on the links below: 

As part of ROD implementation, the BLM and the USFS are recommending the withdrawal of lands within Sagebrush Focal Areas from location of mining claims, subject to valid existing rights.

For more information on the withdrawal process, click here

To see a map of proposed mineral withdrawal areas in Sagebrush Focal Areas, click here.

We are confident that our plans will not only benefit the greater sage-grouse, but will also preserve the West’s heritage of ranching and outdoor recreation; protect hundreds of wildlife species that also rely on sagebrush habitat, such as elk, mule deer and golden eagles; and promote balance between conservation and development.


• Planning Strategy Boundaries Map

• Proposed Mineral Withdrawal Area Map