Moving forward with habitat conservation (August 10, 2021)
The BLM is re-starting efforts to conserve healthy sagebrush ecosystems on public lands that serve as key greater sage-grouse habitat. The agency will immediately resume evaluating the proposed withdrawal of public lands in sagebrush focal areas (SFAs) from mineral location and entry. SFAs comprise approximately 10 million of the 67 million acres of greater sage-grouse habitat the bureau manages in 10 Western states.
Safeguarding the most important habitat is essential to the long-term health of sage-grouse populations, and SFAs are a key feature of the management plans adopted in 2015 to conserve, enhance and restore the sagebrush ecosystem across the West.
The BLM will revise its environmental analysis of withdrawals using continued engagement with stakeholders and the best available science, including studies of the effects of climate change on greater sage-grouse habitat.
In coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service, the agency is also reviewing its 2015 management plans to assess what further action may be needed to support sagebrush habitat conservation and restoration.
"We will again rely on science and work closely with all partners in the cooperative fashion that has served us well for more than a decade," said Nada Wolff Culver, BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs. "Our goal continues to be balanced, sustainable management of sagebrush ecosystems, which benefits hundreds of other species in addition to sage-grouse as well as public land users and local communities across the West."
In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that listing the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act was “not warranted” because the primary threats to the species had been ameliorated by conservation efforts implemented by federal, state, and private landowners. Those efforts included measures intended to conserve, enhance, and restore the sagebrush ecosystem across the West adopted by the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM in their land management plans, including a recommendation to withdraw Sagebrush Focal Areas, which are areas considered essential for the long-term health of the sage grouse, from mineral location and entry.
In 2017, the Trump administration canceled evaluation of withdrawal of up to 10 million acres of federal lands in the West from mining without completing an environmental review of the action. In February 2021, a U.S. District Judge vacated the Trump administration’s action and ordered the BLM to consider whether or not a mineral withdrawal is needed for sage grouse conservation, including direction to re-initiate the NEPA process. On May 10, the BLM filed a status report with the court, confirming it will comply with the court’s order.