Update on BLM Greater Sage-Grouse plans (May 11, 2021)
In the coming months, the Bureau of Land Management will begin to review updates to the 2015 land management plans that were designed to support a healthy sagebrush ecosystem and populations of the greater sage-grouse that rely on it. Changes made to the plans by the previous Administration have been enjoined by courts.
The BLM has also confirmed that it will comply with a court order to begin re-consideration of whether a withdrawal from mineral location and entry, which could potentially limit hardrock mining in Sagebrush Focal Areas, is necessary for the conservation of the greater sage-grouse.
The BLM will coordinate with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and U.S. Forest Service to assess the best available science and what actions are needed to conserve sage-grouse and sagebrush. The planning process and the evaluation of whether or not a mineral withdrawal is needed for sage-grouse conservation will be grounded in science and robust engagement. The Department will work closely with the states, local governments, Indian Tribes, and many stakeholders who have worked in a collaborative and bipartisan fashion for more than a decade toward sustainable and balanced land management of sagebrush habitat for the greater sage-grouse and the hundreds of other species that rely on it.
In 2015, the FWS 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.