The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took an important step forward on behalf of our nation’s iconic sagebrush habitat and wildlife like the Greater sage-grouse with the release of its National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy. The strategy outlines a region-wide effort and builds upon the work of diverse stakeholders, including Audubon Wyoming and Wyoming’s governors (former Governor Dave Freudenthal and current Governor Matt Mead.)
"This is a landmark decision for a species that crosses so many state borders and is dependent on a habitat that has historically been dismissed and degraded. I am encouraged to hear that sound science is being incorporated into federal policymaking. The benefits will extend to many wildlife species that use this unique habitat," said Brian Rutledge, Audubon Wyoming executive director and a key proponent of the core habitat approach in Wyoming.
“This proactive, balanced approach will enable all of us, working together, to protect the sage-grouse without the need for federal listing as an endangered species,” emphasized Rutledge. (Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found Greater sage-grouse warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act, but listing was precluded by higher priority species. Because of its status as a candidate species, federal agencies and public have limited additional time to take efforts such as this proactive landscape level action.)
Sage-grouse require large tracts of sagebrush habitat, found in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, the Dakotas, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Over the last century, nearly 50 percent of their original range has been lost to various kinds of development. Remaining populations – some in small, isolated colonies – face growing threats from energy development, diseases, wildfires, and invasive plants. There is concern among wildlife managers and scientists that local populations may disappear in the next several decades, leaving the species vulnerable to extinction.
With Wyoming home to more than half of the world’s Greater sage-grouse population, it has taken a lead in innovative sage-grouse conservation actions due to fear of economic impacts associated with a listing decision. Wyoming’s science-based and broad stakeholder approach mapped eight million acres of federal land in the state as important sage-grouse habitat requiring careful management actions.
BLM manages more sage-grouse habitat than any other government agency — approximately 57 million acres. Proactive efforts begun by the state of Wyoming, followed by the Wyoming BLM, is now being expanded across all 11 states inhabited by grouse through amendments to Resource Management Plans. The result of this bold move will be management consistency across the region, indicating a commitment by BLM for a cooperative approach and the inclusion of sound science in management decisions across the Sage-grouse’s range.
“Audubon will continue to advance the core area approach developed in Wyoming, because it recognizes the importance of stakeholders, wildlife and fragile landscapes, yet still encourages energy independence and economic growth for our communities." Rutledge said.
Read Audubon President David Yarnold’s Op Ed on Winning the West’s Energy Wars
More about BLM plan http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2011/july/NR_07_21_2011.html
More on Audubon’s Sagebrush Initiative
About Greater Sage grouse http://birds.audubon.org/species/gresag