Greater sage-grouse
Greater Sage-Grouse in Montana Upending the 2015 agreement makes an Endangered Species Act listing more likely for this iconic western species. © Jeannie Stafford/USFS

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Administration Rolls Back Protections for Greater Sage-Grouse

Upending 2015 Agreement Could Erode Habitat, Create Uncertainty

Today the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released amendments to resource management plans (RMPs) and their accompanying final Environmental Impact Statements for how the agency will manage the Greater Sage-grouse across public lands in eleven Western states. Today’s release of a new management framework changes for the worse an existing framework developed through a decade-long collaborative effort between the federal government, the states, conservation, industry, agriculture and other interests which, in 2015, ensured the protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) were not needed for the sage-grouse’s survival.

The following is a statement by Kameran Onley, director of U.S. Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy:

“The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. We work to deliver on our mission by using science and our collaborative approach to take on the biggest conservation challenges facing both people and nature. The 2015 BLM plans established a solid framework to achieve real conservation success for the Greater Sage-grouse without listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act. The 2015 plans also represented progress by the BLM to improve its management of public resources, including efforts to better manage habitat at appropriate scales and apply tools to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts of development on important sage-grouse habitat.

“Today’s announcement walks back many of those plans’ core protections, making an Endangered Species Act listing more likely and creating greater uncertainty for states and other entities. As we further analyze the plans, we urge state partners and other stakeholders critical to the success of this work to continue their efforts to conserve this Western icon.”

Background

In 2015, an unprecedented effort among a wide range of stakeholders resulted in the amendment of BLM sage-grouse RMPs which, in concert with a variety of other investments, sought to ensure the species’ survival without ESA protections. These plans used best available science to maintain core protections needed for the sage-grouse, while still allowing states some flexibility to implement the framework based on individual needs.

Effective management of sage brush habitat not only protects the bird, it is also integral to the lives of many western communities, from ranching to recreation. These special places are also home to 350 other species of important American plants and animals, including elk, mule deer pronghorn antelope, golden eagles, and bluebirds.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.