28
May
2015
|
07:20 PM
America/New_York

Feds Release Proposed Final Sage-grouse Plans - Will they be enough to save the bird?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 28, 2015

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

Feds Release Proposed Final Sage-grouse Plans
Will they be enough to save the bird?

WASHINGTON— Today Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the release of fourteen remaining proposed final Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service conservation plans for the greater sage-grouse, an imperiled species that lives on more than 60 million acres of public lands in the American West.  

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

“At the end of the day these federal plans must be about conserving sage-grouse and its habitat. The draft plans released in 2013/2014 fell well-short of what is needed to save the bird. It is essential that these proposed final plans be as strong as possible, as federal public lands are critical to the species survival.

“This planning process definitely has the potential of finally conserving a quintessential American species and landscape, but half-measures won’t cut it. The future of sage-grouse and the Sagebrush Sea is at stake.

“The inadequacy of the draft plans coupled with new demographic information is a blunt reminder that the final plans must include strong, science-based conservation measures to protect the species.  Ultimately, if the final plans do not adequately protect sage-grouse, then the process cannot be called a success. We intend to review these final plans carefully to assess their strength for sage-grouse conservation and hope they will achieve what is needed for the long term benefit of the grouse, the Sagebrush Sea and people who live, work and recreate on this fragile, but vital landscape.”

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Evaluating the plans:

Defenders closely analyzed draft federal sage-grouse conservation plans and will evaluate the proposed final federal plans to determine whether they adopt key, science-based measures necessary to conserve the species:

·         Imperiled species need habitat to recover. Do the proposed final plans specially designate essential habitat areas as sagebrush reserves to protect sage-grouse and other wildlife?

·         Natural gas and oil extraction is a primary threat to sage-grouse. How would the proposed final plans manage oil and gas development in sage-grouse habitat?

·         More than 90 percent of remaining sagebrush steppe has been impacted by livestock grazing. Do final plans require that livestock grazing maintain and improve healthy sagebrush grasslands necessary for sage-grouse survival?

·         Climate change is a growing threat to sagebrush steppe. Do the proposed final plans account for the effects of climate change on sage-grouse habitat on public lands? 

Background:

The imperiled, iconic greater sage-grouse is at the forefront of an increasingly heated debate over land management and conservation throughout the western United States. Even as Congress threatens to undermine recovery for the birds, the BLM and U.S. Forest Service proceeded with an unprecedented planning process to protect and restore the species and its habitat on more than 60 million acres of public land.

Sage-grouse once ranged across 297 million acres in North America and numbered as many as 16 million birds. Today, greater sage-grouse range has been reduced by nearly half and populations have experienced long-term declines. Sage-grouse require large expanses of healthy sagebrush steppe, an increasingly rare habitat in the West. Millions of acres of the Sagebrush Sea have been lost to agriculture and development over the past 200 years. What remains is fragmented and degraded by poorly managed oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing, min­ing, unnatural fire, invasive weeds, off-road vehicles, roads, fences, pipe­lines and utility corridors.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined greater sage-grouse warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2010, and committed to consider the bird for listing by September 2015. This date certain prompted federal agencies, states and counties to initiate a multitude of planning processes to implement new conservation measures to conserve sage-grouse on millions of acres in the west with the hope of averting the need to list the species. The inadequacy of the draft plans coupled with new demographic information is a blunt reminder that the final plans must include strong, science-based conservation measures to protect the species. The BLM and Forest Service proposed final plans released today will be open to one last round of public input before the agencies adopt them later this summer. 

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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 1.2 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.