The greater sage-grouse is often called an icon of the American West. Known for their elaborate mating rituals in which males strut, pop and dance in open areas called leks, sage-grouse are found on millions of acres of public lands largely managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The sagebrush ecosystem supports more than 350 species in addition to sage-grouse such as pronghorn, deer and elk, giving rise to a phrase often heard in sagebrush country – “save the bird, save the herd.” In recent years sage-grouse populations have declined due to rapidly expanding oil and gas development and other impacts, raising concerns about the health of the entire sagebrush sea.
In 2015, the Bureau of Land Management finalized conservation management plans for greater sage-grouse after a multi-year, west-wide stakeholder process. Among other conservation measures, the plans restrict oil and gas leasing and drilling in important habitat and require the BLM to prioritize energy development outside of sage-grouse habitat.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration has been working relentlessly to weaken the sage-grouse conservation plans as part of its “energy dominance” agenda. Last year the BLM released revised sage-grouse plans that removed many important protections, contrary to the best available science and concerns of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The revised plans opened nearly a quarter of a million acres of priority sage-grouse habitat in Colorado to new oil and gas leasing. A federal court stepped in and prohibited the BLM from implementing the Trump plans – but now the agency is back at it with supplemental plans that would continue to weaken protections for the sage-grouse.
Please speak up for our sagebrush ecosystems and tell the BLM to stick with the 2015 sage-grouse conservation plans, which were based on science, ensured better protections for sage-grouse and enjoyed broad stakeholder support. Comments are due by April 6.
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