Federal agencies and states must do more to conserve sage-grouse for the species to persist long-term. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mountain-Prairie Region
More than half of remaining sage-grouse range is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. In 2011, these agencies initiated an unprecedented planning process to update management plans covering 70 million acres of federal public lands in the West with new measures to conserve sage-grouse and their habitat. All land use decisions, from oil and gas development, to grazing, to wildlife conservation on these public lands are governed by these plans.
Conservation organizations are heavily engaged in this planning effort and working with decision makers to ensure sage-grouse and the Sagebrush Sea are conserved and restored. The federal government's failure to improve management of sagebrush habitats could result in sage-grouse being listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Half of sage-grouse habitat has already been lost forever. The remainder is threatened by oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing, mining and off-road vehicle use, all of which damage sage-grouse breeding, nesting and winter habitat. Newly completed federal land use plans are key to protecting and restoring sage-grouse and hundreds of other species that depend on sagebrush grasslands on public lands. Wildlife advocates are encouraged to participate in the many opportunities to improve and implement these plans to achieve their conservation goals.
A SAGE-GROUSE CONSERVATION CHECKLIST
A successful sage-grouse conservation strategy will include, at a minimum, the following measures to protect and recover the bird. They are based on sage-grouse and sagebrush ecology, as well as key principles of conservation biology for managing habitat to conserve species. This checklist also addresses three sage-grouse habitat categories—“priority,” “restoration” and “general” habitat—that federal and state agencies have defined for sage-grouse planning purposes.
These simple, sensible precepts, if adopted and implemented across sage-grouse range, would provide a basis for sage-grouse restoration in the West.