The Greater sage-grouse inhabits some 150 million acres of sagebrush-steppe lands in western North America and may be best known for the distinctive mating ritual it performs on flat, open patches of the sagebrush sea. More densely vegetated parts of the ecosystem are crucial for later portions of the birds' lifecycle, carried on alongside more than 350 other species that inhabit the biome.
These same lands also sustain Western rural economies built on outdoor recreation, ranching, farming, energy development and small businesses.
For decades, federal, state and private land managers have worked to conserve and restore the sagebrush ecosystem, with federal agencies managing habitat on the lands whose surface they administer and states managing and monitoring wildlife populations.
Moving forward with habitat conservation (November 2021)
The BLM manages the largest share of sage-steppe - 68 million acres - as habitat for Greater sage-grouse under resource management plans adopted in 2015 to stem habitat loss and population declines. Monitoring data and the findings of new science show that in the intervening years, sage-grouse populations have continued to decline in some areas and that various factors - including the effects of climate change - have hindered habitat conservation and restoration.
The BLM is committed to reversing long-term downward trends in sage-grouse populations and habitats in a manner that fulfills our multiple-use and sustained yield mission and meets the needs of Western communities. Our goal continues to be balanced, sustainable management of sagebrush ecosystems to benefit hundreds of wildlife species as well as public land users and local communities across the West.
Safeguarding the most important habitat is essential to the long-term health of sage-grouse populations and is a key feature of the 2015 management plans. A new round of planning will determine what we can do now to improve outcomes for sage-grouse going forward, taking account of new science and effects of climate change and drought.
We will again rely on science and work closely with states, local governments, Indian Tribes and other partners in the cooperative fashion that has served us well for more than a decade.
Even as we engage in planning, the BLM continues to invest in an array of treatments for sage-grouse habitat, to restore critical areas and make remaining habitat more resilient to various stressors and threats.
In addition, the agency continues revising its environmental analysis of withdrawing sagebrush focal areas (SFAs) from mineral location and entry using continued engagement with stakeholders and the best available science.
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 with conservation efforts on federal, state and private lands. These efforts included BLM and U.S. Forest Service land use plans for conserving, enhancing and restoring sagebrush ecosystems across the West.
These plans designated habitat management areas and sagebrush focal areas (SFAs), and recommended withdrawing SFAs from mineral location and entry. In 2017, the Trump administration canceled evaluation of SFA withdrawal before completing an environmental review of the proposed action. In February 2021, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the BLM to continue considering whether SFA withdrawal is needed for sage-grouse conservation and to re-initiate the NEPA process; the Bureau re-started this process in August 2021.
Through a separate order, the Court also enjoined implementation of amended GRSG plans adopted in 2019. The new plan amendment process now underway is gathering input on issues that have arisen since adoption of the 2015 plans that are affecting sage-grouse habitat and populations.