Press Room

Audubon: Rewriting Sage-Grouse Conservation Plans Is Risky and Unnecessary

Threatening the largest conservation agreement in American history puts the sagebrush landscape as well as its economy, people and wildlife at risk.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Today, the Department of the Interior released draft land management plans to replace the landmark 2015 sage-grouse conservation agreement. The 2015 plans took years of collaboration and compromise from a variety of Western stakeholders and put enough habitat protections in place to keep the Greater Sage-Grouse off the endangered species list. In response to the new draft plans, the National Audubon Society issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the Department of the Interior sows uncertainty across the West and threatens the spirit of trust and cooperation that culminated in the largest conservation effort in American history,” said Brian Rutledge, director of Audubon’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative.

“Protecting sagebrush habitat is the key to protecting the Greater Sage-Grouse and avoiding further fragmentation of an iconic landscape. Any new plans that reduce conservation commitments not only put the sage-grouse at risk but also threaten local economies and a way of life.”

Earlier this year, Colorado College’s annual Conservation in the West poll showed that double-digit majorities of those surveyed support keeping the plans that were created three years ago.

In 2015, Western states, federal agencies, energy executives, ranchers, sportsmen, scientists and other stakeholders came together to celebrate that collective commitments to sage-grouse conservation were so strong that there was no need for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections.

By working together, this partnership designed a path forward that provided enough flexibility for all stakeholders to pursue their livelihoods and traditions while also securing enough firm conservation commitments to protect the sage-grouse. This important bird is an indicator species for the health of the sagebrush steppe ecosystem it and more than 350 other species of wildlife depend on.

More than 350 other species of wildlife, including many other species of birds, depend on a healthy sagebrush ecosystem. For example, Burrowing Owls often make their homes underground in abandoned prairie dog dens. Sage Thrashers can be heard singing atop sagebrush plants during breeding season as can the brightly-colored Western Meadowlark.

Western states’ fish and game experts agree that sage-grouse habitat protection is the best way forward. Scientists fear a focus on bird numbers alone and unproven methods to meet them like captive breeding would be doomed to fail, putting the sage-grouse at risk of further decline. 

To learn more about the unprecedented efforts to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse and the places it calls home, please visit www.audubon.org/sage-grouse.

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow.  Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation.  State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action.  A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive.Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.

Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez, ngonzalez@audubon.org, (212) 979-3100.

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