Greater Sage Grouse Plan

BLM Unveils Stronger Conservation Plan to Protect Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat

WASHINGTON D.C. – In a significant move to bolster the conservation efforts for the greater sage-grouse, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a comprehensive draft plan aimed at enhancing the management of these birds across public lands in the West. Drawing on the latest scientific research and extensive collaboration with local, state, federal, and Tribal entities, this proposal marks a pivotal step in the ongoing battle against habitat loss, a pressing issue exacerbated by climate change, wildfires, and invasive species.

Once thriving in numbers that soared into the millions, the greater sage-grouse’s population has dwindled to fewer than 800,000. These birds depend heavily on vast expanses of sagebrush lands for all life stages, from feeding to breeding, requiring up to 40 square miles of unbroken habitat to maintain health. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the BLM’s draft plan is designed to secure the future not only of the greater sage-grouse but also of the broader ecosystem and the Western communities that are intertwined with the health of these sagebrush habitats.

The initiative is underpinned by decades of partnership and knowledge, aiming to restore and protect the sagebrush landscapes that are vital to the survival of not just the sage-grouse but also other species like mule deer, pronghorn, and the pygmy rabbit. “The West’s majesty and way of life hang in the balance,” remarked BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning, highlighting the comprehensive nature of the conservation efforts that led to this historic collaborative endeavor.

The BLM oversees the largest portion of sage-grouse habitat in the country, with nearly 67 million acres under its management. The new draft plan presents various sustainable management strategies, emphasizing a balanced approach that accommodates state-specific conditions and policies. This tailored strategy enables the BLM to collaborate more effectively with state and local partners to safeguard and enhance sagebrush habitats.

Reflecting on the successes of previous plans adopted in 2015 and updated in 2019, the proposal integrates new conservation science and insights gained over the years, offering increased flexibility in implementation to adapt to evolving environmental conditions. The plan’s development was informed by nearly 1,900 public comments and insights from over 100 meetings with stakeholders.

Public engagement is a cornerstone of the plan, with the BLM scheduling 13 meetings to gather further input and address questions regarding the draft proposals. This initiative is part of a larger effort by the Biden Administration to invest in sagebrush ecosystem projects, with annual BLM investments complemented by significant funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

As the public comment period opens, the BLM invites feedback on the draft environmental impact statement and plan amendments, with a final statement expected in the fall. This monumental conservation effort underscores the BLM’s commitment to preserving America’s public lands for future generations, ensuring the resilience of sage-grouse populations and the vast sagebrush ecosystems upon which they and many other species rely.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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