For Immediate Release
Secretary Zinke Orders Review of Greater Sage-Grouse Plans
WASHINGTON (June 8, 2017) – Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke issued Secretarial Order 3353 today establishing a federal panel to review both federal and state efforts to protect greater sage-grouse and recommend changes to the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy.
Secretary Zinke has directed the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to identify provisions that may require modification depending on their potential effects on energy extraction and other land uses. Per the order, officials must undertake the review of the sage-grouse plans in the context of Secretarial Order 3349, which aims to increase energy production on public lands.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:
“Secretary Zinke’s order could have far-reaching consequences for the imperiled greater sage-grouse, the Sagebrush Sea and the diversity of fish and wildlife that depend on this vital landscape.
“The sage-grouse is an iconic and popular species of the Western high desert. Federal conservation measures for this charismatic bird will also help conserve a multitude of other species that Americans treasure, including elk, pronghorn, mule deer, and native trout.
“Messing with these plans now will not only threaten years of collaborative conservation planning, but also communities and economies that depend on this vibrant ecosystem. In fact, a transparent, science-based review would find that we should strengthen protections for sage-grouse in the federal plans.
“The Department of the Interior should focus on implementing these plans for the sake of sage-grouse, Westerners and all Americans vested in the fight to conserve sage-grouse and the Sagebrush Sea.”
Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states -- North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington -- and two Canadian provinces. The species has lost approximately half of its original range, and populations have declined by more than 90 percent from historic levels.
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 FWS determined the greater sage-grouse did not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2015, citing the range-wide effort by federal agencies and states to conserve the bird. In October 2016, USGS released a study that showed that greater sage-grouse populations in Wyoming declined 2.5 percent annually between 1984 and 2008 due to oil and gas development.
The National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy is the most comprehensive land use planning process ever undertaken by the Bureau of Land Management. It recognizes the importance of conserving large expanses of sagebrush grasslands for sage-grouse and other sagebrush-dependent species, designating tens of millions of acres as priority habitat on federal lands. Costing more than $45 million dollars, the strategy will help conserve hundreds of fish and wildlife species, support a one billion-dollar recreation economy, and provide for multiple use on public lands in 11 Western states. Public opinion polling shows that large majorities of voters in these states support efforts to protect sage-grouse in this region, including listing this native Western bird under the Endangered Species Act, if necessary.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 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 Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.