Print Page
December 2, 2009
In Reply Refer To:
6500 (230) P
Instruction Memorandum No. 2010-022
Expires: 09/30/2011
To:             All Field Offices (except Eastern States and Alaska)
From:         Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
Subject:      Managing Structures for the Safety of Sage-grouse, Sharp-tailed grouse, and Lesser Prairie-chicken
Program Area: Wildlife, Range Management, and Renewable Energy.
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides guidance to effectively address sage-grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, and lesser prairie-chicken collisions with fences and other structures on public land.
Policy/Action: Sage-grouse, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, and lesser prairie-chicken are all Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sensitive species that are negatively affected by fences and wind energy structures on some public lands. To consistently take measures to help avoid collision mortality and injury associated with these structures, the following are recommended practices for all states with sage-grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, and lesser prairie-chicken occupying habitat in those states. Temporary meteorological (MET) towers and guy wires for wind energy developments have already been addressed in some state guidance, such as that of Oregon. 
If bird mortality due to collision with fences is documented, or if collisions are likely to occur due to new fence placement, implement appropriate actions to mitigate impact.  Such actions might include marking key sections of the fence with permanent marking or other suitable means.
All Field Offices shall consider marking new fences in sage-grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, or prairie-chicken habitat and should identify marking fences as part of the cost of new fencing projects (see for example, State of Montana guidelines at http://fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=34461).  
  • To reduce the impact of new fences on sage-grouse, Field Offices will ensure that new fence proposals, including those for emergency stabilization and rehabilitation, are carefully evaluated for sage-grouse collision risk, and are sited in a manner consistent with conservation measures in the State Sage-grouse Conservation Plan.
  • All Field Offices are to identify priority areas for flagging or marking existing fences to avoid collisions (nesting, leks, ridge tops, etc.)(For reference, see:http://www.mt.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/ecs/biology/sagegrouse/dontfence.html).  
  • In the process of prioritizing areas for flagging or marking fences, state wildlife agency personnel shall be consulted.
  • When flagging or marking, consult visual resource management leads to determine markings that are most appropriate for the site.
  • To promote cost effective efforts and maximize potential benefits to bird populations, monitoring should be conducted to further document the specific fence segments that should be flagged or marked.  
  • Select a set of marked fences for monitoring to determine the adequacy of the marking.
                                                Wind Energy Associated Structures 
  • To reduce the risk of collisions, avoid the use of guy wires for turbine or MET tower supports.  All existing guy wires should be marked with recommended bird deterrent devices.
  • The siting of new temporary MET towers must be avoided within 2 miles of active sage-grouse leks, unless they are out of the direct line of sight of the active lek.
Timeframe:  Immediately.
Budget Impact: There is the potential for the BLM to incur greater costs associated with fence placement and marking than without this guidance. However, actions taken to avoid the need to list BLM-sensitive species may offset the costs.
Background: Sage-grouse, lesser prairie-chickens, and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse have not displayed much adaptability to anthropogenic changes like fences and low elevation guy wires in their habitat. Anecdotal evidence of negative sage-grouse fence interactions includes a barbed wire fence in Utah winter habitat that killed at least 36 sage-grouse the first winter after installation and a similar 2-mile length of fence where 21 sage-grouse were killed in Wyoming.
An ongoing study in Wyoming found that sage-grouse collisions with a relatively short section of barbed-wire fence killed dozens of birds during a seven-month period. In the results released late in October 2009, researchers with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department documented 146 instances of finding sage-grouse feathers or carcasses on or near a 4.7-mile section of barbed-wire fence near Farson in western Wyoming. Subsequent research looked at whether colored tags helped sage-grouse avoid flying into the fence. The data shows that these are effective.
More than 33 percent of lesser prairie-chicken mortalities in a 2004 Oklahoma/New Mexico study were attributed to fence collisions (http://www.suttoncenter.org/LPCH.html). Researchers reported that hens were twice as susceptible to fence collisions as cocks, resulting in a disproportionate impact on population growth for this species.
The Sutton Avian Research Center of Oklahoma has found that marking fences to increase visibility reduces lesser prairie-chicken mortalities. After marking over 100 miles of fence, one-third of them located in areas where frequent collisions had occurred during previous years, the areas along marked fences were subsequently reduced to zero bird strikes.  In addition, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse may also be conserved by marking fences appropriately. 
While most state sage-grouse and prairie-chicken conservation plans address collision prevention measures, the measures described in this IM are intended to establish a BLM-wide routine of incorporating bird conservation measures into fence or wind energy projects on BLM lands.
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  This IM transmits interim policy that will be incorporated into the Fencing Handbook, MS-1741-1, during the next revision.  

Coordination:  The development of this IM was coordinated with the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (WO230), the Division of Rangeland Resources (WO220), and the Renewable Energy Team (WO300).

Contact: Questions should be referred to Geoffrey Walsh, Wildlife Biologist, at 202-912-7271 or Doug Powell, Rangeland Management Specialist, at 202-912-7209.
Signed by:                                                         Authenticated by:
Edwin L. Roberson                                            Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director                                             Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning

Last updated: 12-03-2009