Conservation, Sportsmen Groups Express Support for Efforts to Improve Future for Greater Sage-grouse and Sagebrush Country

In a pivotal step toward conserving the American West’s cherished public lands, conservation and sportsmen’s groups offered the following responses on the heels of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) release of its Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendment. This is an important step in the BLM’s effort to update the plans that were originally approved in 2015, providing the stakeholders and the public an understanding of types of uses or actions that will be considered by the BLM as it  works with state governments and others to meet their stated goal of creating management plans that “support persistent, healthy sage-grouse populations.”  This update represents a renewed commitment to safeguarding the intricate web of life supported by the sagebrush ecosystem, which is essential for more than 350 species of conservation concern, including the emblematic Greater Sage-grouse, as well as for the livelihoods and cultural traditions of countless communities across the West. Public comment will open on March 15 and end on June 13, 2024.

This effort is driven by the necessity to integrate new scientific knowledge and to respond proactively to the rapidly evolving conditions brought about by climate change.

Greater Sage-Grouse - American Bird Conservancy

“Working to keep the Greater sage-grouse off the Endangered Species list is about more than just the bird,” said Alison Holloran, executive director of Audubon Rockies. “For those of us that live in the West, we realize how important it is to take this bird’s steep decline seriously because it is a very real warning that sagebrush country is in trouble. We need to make some meaningful changes and double-down on working together to conserve the bird and ensure a future for the West.”

Greater Sage-Grouse - eBird

“The Nature Conservancy (TNC) welcomes proactive efforts to maintain and increase Greater sage-grouse populations and vibrant sagebrush across state boundaries to prevent listing the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” said Lee Davis, Public Lands Policy Specialist, TNC Sagebrush Sea Program. “Greater sage-grouse populations and healthy, intact sagebrush habitats continue to decline and face hard challenges. Working with partners and communities we can be successful if we build infrastructure on already degraded land and remove invasive annual grasses to limit destructive wildfires. Supporting robust investments in restoration benefits sage-grouse and the people and communities who call these lands home.”

“The Greater Sage-grouse is a bellwether for the entire Mountain West ecosystem,” said Bobby McEnaney, Director of Nature for Natural Resources Defense Council. “These urgently needed protections will go a long way toward heading off the extinction of this iconic species, help restore a healthy population, and protect this incomparable landscape. There’s more to do, but this is an important step toward protecting the sage grouse and the resources it relies upon.”

“A continued commitment to the conservation of the greater sage-grouse is critically important to the health of our sagebrush ecosystems and other species that rely on that core habitat such as pronghorn and mule deer,” said Kaden McArthur, government relations manager, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “As intact sagebrush habitat on our public lands continues to decline, so do opportunities for sportsmen and women across the West. The Resource Management Plan announced by the Bureau of Land Management provides the framework and a renewed opportunity to conserve and restore these landscapes and the wildlife that rely on them through the best available science.”

“Greater sage-grouse are among the more than 350 species of wildlife and native plants that depend on the sagebrush ecosystem for survival. Unfortunately, we are currently losing 1.3 million acres of sagebrush habitat every year from the effects of drought, invasive species, wildfire, and human development, which puts sage grouse at great risk,” said David Willms, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “We appreciate the Biden Administration’s recognition that healthy, intact landscapes are essential to both sage grouse conservation and preserving our Western way of life. It’s going to take all stakeholders—federal, state, Tribal, and local leaders; sportsmen and women; ranchers, and conservationists—continuing to work together as we have for decades to succeed in conserving this iconic species and landscape.”

Greater Sage-Grouse Need your Help - The Lahontan Audubon Society

“Since 1998, Nevada has lost 71% of its prime sagebrush habitat. As our sage-grouse and its habitat continue to decline, it is critical that we use the best available science to steer sagebrush and sage-grouse management onto a path destined for success.” said Russell Kuhlman, Executive Director of the Nevada Wildlife Federation. “Historical accounts claim that sage-grouse were so plentiful they would block out the sun, similar to the passenger pigeon. Without an effective management plan, the sage-grouse has the potential to be the 21st century’s passenger pigeon.”

“Pew applauds the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for bringing the latest science, including planning for climate impacts, to this round of sage-grouse plan updates. With the health of the sagebrush ecosystem and the bird continuing to decline, it’s more important than ever to conserve this habitat to help the many species that depend on sagebrush—and the people in local communities who rely on sagebrush lands to support their livelihoods and traditions,” said Marcia Argust, director of Pew’s U.S. conservation program. “These draft plans are a step in the right direction, but science is pointing to the need for even stronger management in order for the greater sage-grouse population to recover. Since 2015, significant new scientific information has been collected and several hundred peer-reviewed scientific publications regarding greater sage-grouse management have been published. BLM can be successful in the final plan by analyzing and incorporating this new, best available science, along with planning for a changing climate and strengthening management prescriptions for the greater sage-grouse and the health of this classic American landscape.”

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