BLM Sage-Grouse Interim Strategy Establishes
to Managing Sagebrush Habitat
The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
today unveiled the final version of an interim national strategy outlining
additional steps that it will take to maintain, enhance and restore sage-grouse
habitat on America’s public lands.
The interim strategy will guide BLM field offices until state- and local-level
sage-grouse conservation plans developed in collaboration with state wildlife
experts are completed and made part of BLM land-use plans.
“The national strategy is part of our three-pronged approach to
sage-grouse management,” said BLM Director Kathleen Clarke. “The
first prong – BLM’s 30 years of success in sagebrush conservation
– forms the foundation for the second prong, the national strategy
we are announcing today. These in turn will be incorporated into the third
prong – the development of conservation plans for local and regional
levels that turn our broad knowledge and experience into further action.”
In managing sage-grouse as a special-status species, BLM has put in place
numerous specific, enforceable requirements to protect sagebrush habitat
in permits issued for grazing, recreation, mining, and oil and gas activities
on the public lands the agency manages. The BLM manages half of the sage-grouse
habitat remaining in the United States, about 57 million acres.
BLM managers at the State and Field office levels are currently developing
management plans that address the highly variable conditions that exist
in sagebrush habitats throughout the West. By identifying approaches to
conservation that are already yielding on-the-ground success for sage-grouse
across the West, the national strategy facilitates the work of identifying
the resources and actions that are most appropriate for conditions in
specific regions and locales.
Clarke noted the extensive cooperation among federal, state and local
agencies in finalizing the strategy. “The importance of working
with state wildlife agencies cannot be over-emphasized. National-level
conservation goals can only be achieved by working with states on state-level
strategies and by giving field managers flexibility in developing management
plans that account for site-specific conditions,” she said.
The strategy outlines methods for assessing the risks to sage-grouse
in various local habitats and identifies actions managers can take to
address them that have proven successful in other places. These actions
can be incorporated into the planning process when managers approve other
uses of public lands, including energy development, livestock grazing,
mining, recreation and fire management.
For example, managers might consider best management practices such as
“greenstripping,” or removing old vegetation and replanting
native vegetation, along access roads in areas where energy development
occurs, Clarke said. This practice has been used successfully by BLM managers
in northeastern Utah, and illustrates one way to conserve winter habitat
The strategy also encourages efforts such as the work of the Shoshone
Basin Local Working Group in Idaho to manage BLM grazing allotments for
both livestock forage and seasonal sage-grouse habitat requirements. The
group’s plan maintained existing grazing levels while the acreage
rated as “excellent” for sage-grouse increased from 2 percent
of the allotment to 24 percent.
“The commitment of local stakeholders was the key to success in
the Shoshone Basin,” Clarke said. “Local users brought important
knowledge of range conditions and history along with a willingness to
include private lands associated with the allotment in the plan.”
Another example is a BLM partnership with the owner of private land along
the Utah-Wyoming border to remove decaying sagebrush. The partnership
resulted in habitat restoration, a reduction in the threat of wildfire,
and increased sage-grouse survival rates and lek counts in the treated
Yet another recent initiative re-established native forbs and grasses
across the Utah’s Great Basin. This benefited sage-grouse and more
than 350 other plant and animal species.
“We will continue to use the best available science and experience-based
knowledge to form our management decisions and establish priorities for
maintaining and restoring sagebrush habitats on public lands,” Clarke
said. “Lek counts and inventories like those that have been underway
around Bishop, Calif., and in southeastern Montana ensure that we can
track the effects of our management decisions and adapt our plans for
the future where necessary.”
Elements of the national strategy and subsequent conservation plans written
by BLM State and Field offices will be implemented through the Bureau’s
land use planning process.
Details about the BLM’s sage-grouse conservation program, including
selected success stories and the full text of the national strategy and
related guidance documents, are available on the agency’s Website:
The BLM, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, manages a
total of 261 million surface acres. Most of this public land is located
in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau also administers 700
million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation.