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Sage-Grouse and Sagebrush Conservation

Once seen in great numbers across the West, Greater Sage-Grouse have declined in number over the past century because of the loss of sagebrush habitats essential for their survival and are now candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

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 are working together to ensure the conservation of the west’s sagebrush habitats.    We are also working closely with the States as we develop 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.  We are fine-tuning our joint plans to make sure that the entire conservation strategy fits together across the remaining range of the bird.

 

 Greater Sage-Grouse

Status

The BLM, working jointly with the Forest Service, has developed a series of Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) to incorporate Greater Sage-Grouse conservation measures on the lands they manage.   These Draft EISs were released to the public in 2013.  Our goal is to release the final EISs in the early summer of 2015, with final plans released before the end of the fiscal year

These EISs aim to meet the Greater Sage-Grouse conservation targets set by the Conservation Objectives Team, which was led by state wildlife officials and the  FWS in an innovative effort to define the species’ conservation needs.  We believe that these objectives are the best hope to accomplish conservation of the west’s sagebrush ecosystems on which the Greater Sage-Grouse depend.

We are now at work on finalizing them, coordinating our efforts to ensure that the habitat protection actions laid out in these plans achieve consistent, range-wide habitat conservation results that are, at the same time, appropriate for their specific locations. 

The BLM is building the Final EISs for its Greater Sage-Grouse initiative around conserving areas that have been identified as having the highest value to maintaining the species and its habitat.  These Priority Habitat Management Areas were locally-developed using the best-science available to encompass large expanses of sagebrush containing seasonal habitats use for nesting, brood-rearing and other purposes in the vicinity of leks.  Priority Habitat Management Areas will be protected by a suite of tools and mechanisms, such as excluded activities, disturbance limits, restrictions, mitigation measures, and applying required design features.  These overlapping and reinforcing mechanisms will work in concert to conserve sage-grouse throughout its lifecycle. Taken together, the actions we are taking in priority habitat will limit potential development on these lands.  The BLM will also work with developers to appropriately manage and mitigate for development of valid preexisting rights in these areas.

Our efforts aim to steer development outside of priority areas for sage-grouse and limit disturbance to important habitats, including nesting, breeding, and winter habitats.  Our intent is for the management decisions in these documents to guide development to lands where there is low potential for conflict.  This will help all of us with a stake in Greater Sage-Grouse conservation reduce risk and increase certainty for habitat conservation, for the species and for the other users of the public lands.

The EISs consider a broad range of alternatives, including those developed by many individual states and several conservation organizations.  These EISs all anticipate ongoing relationships with our cooperators and partners in designing and implementing Greater Sage-Grouse conservation actions. 

These EISs also will provide similar adaptive management, allocation, disturbance, mitigation, and monitoring requirements so we will be able to assess the effects of our activities and track progress toward meeting our conservation goals.  By implementing the same definitions for activities that take place across the species’ range, and by establishing shared protocols for gathering and interpreting data from the lands we manage, we will be able to confidently track the outcomes of our efforts and more successfully respond to changing conditions on the land.

We are continuing to work with our federal, state and local partners on our shared goal of reaching a ‘not warranted’ determination for the species and providing predictability for the states, ranchers, energy developers and other stakeholders who are working together to put effective conservation measures in place.  We all recognize that much is at stake in the hundreds of thousands of square miles of sagebrush habitat across the West, including energy development, recreation, livestock grazing and fire management. Working proactively, regardless of administrative boundaries, will result in conservation to benefit Greater Sage-Grouse across their range.  

By taking steps now to conserve the sagebrush ecosystems of the west, we are also taking steps to conserve the western way of life.  We are optimistic that - in partnership with states, ranchers, energy companies, private landowners and other partners - we are putting smart and effective conservation measures in place that will benefit the greater sage-grouse and other wildlife and promote balance between open space and development.

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

On the Ground Success

While we are addressing the specific need for regulatory certainty that the Fish and Wildlife Service identified, we are also participating in extensive, partnership-driven conservation efforts to benefit the Greater Sage-Grouse.  Most of these projects are designed to address the main threats the Fish and Wildlife Service identified to the species habitat:  infrastructure that comes along with energy development in the Rocky Mountain area and sagebrush habitat conversion to annual grasslands due to wildfires in the Great Basin.

In the case of fire, we are already adopting tactical sagebrush conservation measures, including: • establishing fuelbreaks in strategic locations to protect areas with sagebrush where large and destructive wildfires have occurred in the past,
• removing pinyon-juniper encroachment, and
• treating new non-native weed infestations. 

In November 2014, the BLM and partners held “The Next Steppe”, a conference about rangeland fire, sage-steppe habitat and sage-grouse.  Participants met to share information and develop a path forward for a comprehensive strategy to restore sagebrush ecosystems.  You can see the conference videos and materials at http://www.nifc.gov/fireandsagegrouse/

From 2003 to 2013, the BLM Fuels Management Program has invested more than $92 million to carry out these treatments and activities.  This has benefitted more than 1.3 million acres of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat.

The links below provide more information about several partnership-driven efforts in which BLM participates to help conserve Greater Sage-Grouse:  

• Sage-grouse Habitat Restoration in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin
• Greater Sage-Grouse Data Collection Informs Rangeland Management Decisions in Montana
• BLM Idaho Partnerships Remove Juniper to Improve Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat
• BLM, USFWS and Cattlemen's Association Sign Agreement to Conserve Greater Sage-Grouse
• Making Fences Visible to Greater Sage-Grouse



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MAPS and GRAPHICS

Planning Strategy Boundaries Map

Planning Strategy Boundaries Thumbnail
See the strategy boundaries »
 

Greater Sage-grouse Breeding Densities Map

Breeding density thumbnail graphic
See where the Greater-sage Grouse are found »
 
The BLM and Sage-grouse
BLM Planning Units and Sage-Grouce Occurrence map thumbnail
Where the BLM and Sage-grouse overlap »