First federal sage-grouse plan to be finalized doesn’t fly with conservationists

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Courtney Sexton, Defenders of Wildlife: csexton@defenders.org; 202-772-0253

 

First federal sage-grouse plan to be finalized doesn’t fly with conservationists

Lander Resource Management Plan released as part of national strategy; not the best for the birds

WASHINGTON (June 26, 2014) – The Bureau of Land Management announced today that it has finalized the Resource Management Plan for the Lander Field Office in Wyoming (Lander plan), the first of fifteen plans developed as part of the agency’s National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy, a range-wide effort to update land-use plans with new measures to conserve sage-grouse. While the Lander plan (one of four federal plans to be completed in Wyoming) recognizes the importance of conserving core habitat areas and provides some protections for sage-grouse, it also includes key management prescriptions that fail to meet scientific standards to protect sage-grouse from future development and support the species long term recovery needs.

The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO, Defenders of Wildlife:

“Unfortunately, the Lander plan falls short of what is required to conserve greater sage-grouse and their habitat. While it is a noteworthy effort, providing protections for sage-grouse from certain threats, the plan is also a missed opportunity to improve sage-grouse conservation on public lands and it simply does not follow the best available science on the grouse. Key elements of the plan related to fossil fuel development are inadequate to protect sage-grouse from drilling activities according to the Bureau of Land Management's own recommendations.

“The federal planning strategy is an unprecedented opportunity to conserve and restore millions of acres of sagebrush habitat for sage-grouse and hundreds of other species—it is critical that we do it right to ensure the long term sustainability of sagebrush steppe habitat and all the species that depend on it. We hope the Lander plan is not a precedent for the remaining conservation plans.”

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Background

The greater sage-grouse is the largest grouse in North America and is known for its ornate plumage and elaborate mating dance. The grouse occurs in 11 western states and numbers between 200,000-400,000 birds.

Sage-grouse require large expanses of healthy sagebrush steppe, an increasingly rare habitat in the West. Populations have plummeted due to habitat loss. Millions of acres of the Sagebrush Sea have been lost to agriculture and development over the past 200 years. Land use and development have eliminated sagebrush grasslands and remaining habitat is fragmented by oil and gas drilling, roads, utility corridors and other development. Sage-grouse now occupy little more than half of their original range, and current populations are estimated at less than 10 percent of historic levels.

In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would consider listing the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act by 2015. This pending deadline prompted federal land management agencies, as well as western states, to initiate a multitude of planning processes to improve sage-grouse conservation on public and private lands. With the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)—the agency responsible for half of remaining sage-grouse habitat—is leading the federal effort to improve management on 60 million acres of publicly owned sagebrush grasslands in the West. BLM divided sage-grouse range into 15 planning areas spanning 10 western states and produced 15 different draft plans proposing new conservation measures for the species.

Congress has appropriated millions of dollars for the federal planning effort. The Fish and Wildlife Service is also providing assistance to state and federal agency planning processes to conserve the species. While it is unfortunate that a listing deadline for sage-grouse was required to spur long needed conservation for sage-grouse, the federal government, states and other stakeholders have finally focused their attention on preserving the species and its habitat.

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.

 

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