Using and sustaining sagebrush lands

As we manage sagebrush lands to benefit greater sage-grouse and other wildlife, these lands also remain available for multiple uses. Habitat management plans work to sustainably balance habitat conservation with other authorized activities, including development of oil & gas resources and renewable energy

Research indicates that oil and gas operations can affect sage-grouse in several ways:

  • Development activities may result in loss or fragmentation of sagebrush habitat.
  • Noise from operations can disrupt the birds’ behavior at certain points in their life cycle. More generally, the birds may start to avoid human activity and infrastructure. 
  • Operations may introduce or increase the extent of invasive plants and predators
Greater sage-grouse camouflaged in sagebrush
In the course of a year, a local sage-grouse population may use up to 40 square miles of intact landscape to sustain itself. | USFWS / Tom Koerner

The proposed updates to the habitat management plans adopted in 2015 explore options for working with oil & gas project proponents and state wildlife agencies to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts of leasing in sage-grouse habitat, using the latest science and data

See p. 2-14 of the 2024 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a comparison of how the six alternatives would allocate habitat for oil & gas leasing. Table 2-8 in the draft EIS compares management objectives for oil & gas leasing across the alternatives.  

When any parcel of public land is leased for oil & gas development, the BLM may apply three types of stipulations to the lease:

  • No surface occupancy
  • Controlled surface use, which in the case of sage-grouse conservation, take the form of limits, or caps, on the amount of surface disturbance allowed on the acres leased (See Table 2-7 in ch. 2 of the draft EIS.)
  • Timing limitations, which close the leased acres to development during specified time frames when activities would be most disruptive to sage-grouse.

All BLM resource management plans remain flexible by allowing waivers, exceptions, and modifications of stipulations on a project-specific basis, when warranted. Further flexibility in managing sage-grouse habitat comes with coordinating stipulations with laws and policies for the state in which a lease is located and collaborating with owners of adjacent lands. (See Table 2-9 in ch. 2 of the draft EIS.) 

greater sage-grouse with oil & gas drilling rigs in the distance
Greater sage-grouse and drilling rigs near Pinedale, Wyoming | Gerrit Vyn / Cornell Lab

More than 100 meetings with key stakeholders, including state and local governments, resulted in the proposed alternatives analyzed in the draft EIS and data that supports the analysis.

Comments received during the recent 90-day public comment period and further coordination with state, local and Tribal partners will be used to finalize the environmental analysis and amendments to the 2015 plans.

The final EIS may revise or combine the alternatives presented in the draft EIS.


Heather Feeney, Public Affairs Specialist

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