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December 27, 2011

In Reply Refer To:
1110 (230/300) P
Instruction Memorandum No. 2012-044
Expires: 09/30/2013
To:                   All Field Officials
From:               Director
Subject:           BLM National Greater Sage-Grouse Land Use Planning Strategy
Program Areas:  All Programs.
Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides direction to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for considering Greater Sage-Grouse conservation measures identified in the Sage-Grouse National Technical Team’s -  A Report on National Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Measures (Attachment 1) during the land use planning process that is now underway in accordance with the 2011 National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy (Attachment 2).
This IM supplements direction for Greater Sage-Grouse contained in WO IM No. 2010-071 (Gunnison and Greater Sage-Grouse Management Guidelines for Energy Development), the BLM’s 2004 National Sage-Grouse Habitat Conservation Strategy and is a component of the 2011 National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy (Attachment 2). It is also consistent with WO IM No. 2011-138 (Sage-Grouse Conservation Related to Wildland Fire and Fuels Management). 
In March 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published its decision on the petition to list the Greater Sage-Grouse as “Warranted but Precluded.” 75 Fed. Reg. 13910 (March 23, 2010). Over 50 percent of the Greater Sage-Grouse habitat is located on BLM-managed lands.  In its “warranted but precluded” listing decision, FWS concluded that existing regulatory mechanisms, defined as ‘specific direction regarding sage-grouse habitat, conservation, or management’ in the BLM’s Land Use Plans (LUPs), were inadequate to protect the species. The FWS is scheduled to make a new listing decision in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015.
The BLM has 68 land use planning units which contain Greater Sage-Grouse habitat.  Based on the identified threats to the Greater Sage-Grouse and the FWS timeline for making a listing decision on this species, the BLM needs to incorporate explicit objectives and desired habitat conditions, management actions, and area-wide use restrictions into LUPs by the end of FY 2014. The BLM’s objective is to conserve sage-grouse and its habitat and potentially avoid an ESA listing.
In August 2011, the BLM convened the Sage-Grouse National Technical Team (NTT), which brought together resource specialists and scientists from the BLM, State Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the FWS, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The NTT met in Denver, Colorado in August and September 2011, and in Phoenix, Arizona in December 2011, and developed a series of science-based conservation measures to be considered and analyzed through the land use planning process. This IM provides direction to the BLM on how to consider these conservation measures in the land use planning process.   
In order to be effective in our ability to conserve Greater Sage-Grouse and their habitat, the BLM will continue to work with its partners including: the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), FWS, USGS, NRCS, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and Farm Services Agency (FSA) within the framework of the Sagebrush Memorandum of Understanding (2008) and the Greater Sage-Grouse Comprehensive Conservation Strategy (2006).
Policy/Action:  The BLM must consider all applicable conservation measures when revising or amending its RMPs in Greater Sage Grouse habitat. The conservation measures developed by the NTT and contained in Attachment 1 must be considered and analyzed, as appropriate, through the land use planning process by all BLM State and Field Offices that contain occupied Greater Sage-Grouse habitat. While these conservation measures are range-wide in scale, it is expected that at the regional and sub-regional planning scales there may be some adjustments of these conservation measures in order to address local ecological site variability. Regardless, these conservation measures must be subjected to a hard look analysis as part of the planning and NEPA processes. This means that a reasonable range of conservation measures must be considered in the land use planning alternatives. As appropriate, the conservation measures must be considered and incorporated into at least one alternative in the land use planning process. Records of Decision (ROD) are expected to be completed for all such plans by the end of FY 2014. This is necessary to ensure the BLM has adequate regulatory mechanisms in its land use plans for consideration by FWS as part of its anticipated 2015 listing decision.
When considering the conservation measures in Attachment 1 through the land use planning process, BLM offices should ensure that implementation of any of the measures is consistent with applicable statute and regulation. Where inconsistencies arise, BLM offices should consider the conservation measure(s) to the fullest extent consistent with such statute and regulation. 
The NTT-developed conservation measures were derived from goals and objectives developed by the NTT and included in Attachment 1. These goals and objectives are a guiding philosophy that should inform the goals and objectives developed for individual land use plans. However, it is anticipated that individual plans may develop goals and objectives that differ and are specific to individual planning areas.
Through the land use planning process, the BLM will refine Preliminary Priority Habitat and Preliminary General Habitat data (defined below) to: (1) identify Priority Habitat and analyze actions within Priority Habitat Areas to conserve Greater Sage-Grouse habitat functionality, or where possible, improve habitat functionality, and (2) identify General Habitat Areas and analyze actions within General Habitat Areas that provide for major life history function (e.g., breeding, migration, or winter survival) in order to maintain genetic diversity needed for sustainable Greater Sage-Grouse populations. Any adjustments to the NTT recommended conservation measures at the local level are still expected to meet the criteria for Priority and General Habitat Areas.
Preliminary Priority Habitat (PPH): Areas that have been identified as having the highest conservation value to maintaining sustainable Greater Sage-Grouse populations. These areas would include breeding, late brood-rearing, and winter concentration areas. These areas have been/are being identified by the BLM in coordination with respective state wildlife agencies.
Preliminary General Habitat (PGH): Areas of occupied seasonal or year-round habitat outside of priority habitat. These areas have been/are being identified by the BLM in coordination with respective state wildlife agencies.
PPH and PGH data and maps have been/are being developed by the BLM through a collaborative effort between the BLM and the respective state wildlife agency, and are stored at the National Operations Center (NOC). These science-based maps were developed using the best available data and may change as new information becomes available. Such changes would be science-based and coordinated with the state wildlife agencies so that the resulting delimitation of PPH and PGH provides for sustainable populations. In those instances where the BLM State Offices have not completed this delineation, the Breeding Bird Density maps developed by Doherty 2010[1] As LUPs are amended or revised, the BLM State Offices will be responsible for coordinating with the NOC to use the newest delineation of PPH and PGH. To access the PPH and PGH data, please use the following link: \\blm\dfs\loc\EGIS\OC\Wildlife\Transfers\GREATER_SAGE_GROUSE_GIS_DATA.  will be used. The NOC will establish the process for updating files to include the latest PPH and PGH delineations for each state. This information will assist in applying the conservation measures identified in Attachment 1 below. 
Timeframe:  This IM is effective immediately and will remain in effect until LUPs are revised or amended by the end of FY 2014.
Budget Impact:  This IM will result in additional costs for coordination, NEPA review, planning, implementation, and monitoring.
Background:  Following a full status review in 2005, the FWS determined that the Greater Sage Grouse was “not warranted” for protection. Decision documents in support of that determination noted the need to continue and/or expand all efforts to conserve sage-grouse and their habitats. As a result of litigation challenging the 2005 determination, the FWS revisited the determination and concluded in March 2010 that the listing of the Greater Sage-Grouse is warranted but precluded by higher priority listing actions.
In November 2004, the BLM published the National Sage-Grouse Habitat Conservation Strategy.  The BLM National Strategy emphasizes partnerships in conserving Greater Sage-Grouse habitat through consultation, cooperation, and communication with WAFWA, FWS, NRCS, USFS, USGS, state fish and wildlife agencies, local sage-grouse working groups, and various other public and private partners. In addition, the Strategy set goals and objectives, assembled guidance and resource materials, and provided comprehensive management direction for the BLM’s contributions to the ongoing multi-state sage-grouse conservation effort.
In July 2011, the BLM announced its National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy (Attachment 2). The goal of the Strategy and this IM is to review existing regulatory mechanisms and to implement new or revised regulatory mechanisms through the land use planning process to conserve and restore the Greater Sage-Grouse and their habitat. The Gunnison Sage-Grouse, bi-state population in California and Nevada and the Washington State distinct population segments of the Greater Sage-Grouse will be addressed through other policies and planning efforts.

Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  None.
Coordination:  This IM was coordinated with the office of National Landscape Conservation System and Community Partnership (WO-170), Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning, (WO-200), Minerals and Realty Management (WO-300), Fire and Aviation (WO-400), BLM State Offices, FWS and state fish and wildlife agencies.
Contact:  State Directors may direct questions or concerns to Edwin Roberson, Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning (WO-200) at 202-208-4896 or edwin_roberson@blm.gov; and Michael D. Nedd, Assistant Director, Minerals and Realty Management (WO-300) at 202-208-4201 or mike_nedd@blm.gov.
Signed by:                                                                 Authenticated by:
Mike Pool                                                                   Ambyr Fowler
Acting, Director                                                          Division of IRM Governance, WO-560

[1] Doherty, K. E., J.D. Tack, J.S. Evans and D. E. Naugle. 2010. Mapping breeding densities of greater sage-grouse: A tool for range-wide conservation planning. BLM Completion Report: Interagency Agreement # L10PG00911.

Last updated: 12-28-2011