Background on BLM Instruction Memorandum on Sage-grouse Conservation

Link to IM 2010-071, Gunnison and Greater Sage-grouse Management Considerations for Energy Development (supplement to National Sage-Grouse Habitat Conservation Strategy)

Instruction Memorandum (IM) Title: BLM Washington Office IM No. 2010-71, Gunnison and Greater Sage-grouse Management Considerations for Energy Development (Supplement to the National Sage-Grouse Conservation Strategy)
IM Effective Date: March 5, 2010
Focus of IM: The greater sage-grouse and Gunnison sage-grouse are designated as BLM sensitive species, in accordance with the BLM’s special status species policy (BLM Manual 6840). The BLM manages sage-grouse to promote their conservation and to preclude the need for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
BLM State Offices Managing Sage-grouse Habitat: California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana/Dakotas, Nevada, Oregon/Washington, Utah, and Wyoming
Purpose of IM: This national policy supplements the BLM’s 2004 National Sage-Grouse Conservation Strategy and identifies management actions necessary at some sites to ensure environmentally responsible exploration, authorization, leasing, and development of renewable and nonrenewable energy resources within the range of Gunnison sage-grouse and greater sage-grouse. Additionally, the IM provides consistent guidance to all BLM State Offices managing sage-grouse habitat and contains the following significant provisions:
1.  When addressing both nonrenewable and renewable energy development on the National System of Public Lands in areas of sustainable sage-grouse populations, land managers will require that priority sage-grouse habitat be avoided or that development not exceed established density thresholds. For any proposed project-specific actions, the BLM will make decisions supported by full environmental analysis completed under the National Environmental Policy Act and 1) alert the applicant as early as possible that the application may be denied, or 2) notify the applicant of terms and conditions that may be imposed to protect priority sage-grouse habitat.
2. In developing resource management plan revisions and amendments, the IM allows land managers to analyze one or more alternatives that would exclude priority sage-grouse habitat from renewable and/or nonrenewable energy development and transmission projects.
3. The IM ensures that the BLM will continue to coordinate with State fish and wildlife agencies and their Sage and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Technical Committee in the development of a range-wide key habitat map. This range-wide key habitat mapping project, which will be in addition to individual State fish and wildlife agency core habitat maps, will identify priority habitat for sage-grouse within each of the western states and reflect this across the known range of sage-grouse.
Wind and Solar Energy Development: In accordance with the new policy, the BLM will screen new right-of way applications to identify whether the wind or solar energy development, site testing, or project area is within priority habitat. If so, the BLM will alert the applicant as early as possible that the application may be denied, or terms and conditions may be imposed on the right-of-way grant to protect priority sage-grouse habitat as supported by NEPA analysis.
Working Together: The BLM will continue to work with its partners; the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service and the Farm Service Agency; under the framework of the multiagency Sagebrush Memorandum of Understanding (2008) and the Greater Sage-grouse Comprehensive Conservation Strategy (2006).  The BLM State Offices will continue to work with their respective State fish and wildlife agency counterparts to delineate and map areas of priority habitat and to identify State-specific management actions.
Continued Research: The BLM is a participating member in the Sage-grouse and Wind Energy Collaborative, a consortium of Federal and State agencies, non-governmental organizations, and industry working together to develop a standardized research protocol for studying the impacts of wind energy development on sage-grouse. The consortium will work to better understand the sage-grouse’s tolerance thresholds to wind energy development, and to propose appropriate wind energy development minimization and mitigation measures.
Next Steps: Managing for sensitive and candidate species is nothing new to the BLM. Using the best science available and effective on-the-ground coordination with our many partners and stakeholders, the BLM will build on current accomplishments in managing for sustainable sage-grouse populations on our National System of Public Lands. A more comprehensive bureauwide policy will be issued as additional research becomes available.