Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead on Monday convened a meeting with representatives from eight western states to discuss ongoing efforts to conserve the greater sage-grouse and identify next steps in implementing a landscape level strategy that will benefit the species while maintaining a robust economy in the West.
Participants discussed current strategies, challenges, and areas of collaboration for local, state, and federal governments to proactively address the needs of the species to ensure its long-term health and stability.
During the meeting, the attendees discussed developing a new working agreement that puts in place conservation actions and commitments to meaningfully address both the threats to the survival of the greater sage-grouse and the need of Westerners to enjoy multiple uses of their land and have reasonable predictability regarding regulatory requirements.
“Sagebrush habitat, with its open spaces, wildlife, and heritage, is iconic to the West and is at the root of many of our proud traditions,” Salazar said. “Protecting the health of this land and its wildlife, while also facilitating energy and other development in the right ways and the right places, is going to take strong, well-coordinated, comprehensive action by leaders at all levels. Today’s meeting is a milestone in our efforts to accelerate and expand the smart, landscape-scale approaches that are already underway in many places.”
From Wyoming’s Sage Grouse Initiative developed under the leadership of Gov. Mead to the Bureau of Land Management’s National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy (http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/sagegrouse.html), to the ongoing implementation of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Comprehensive Strategy, progress is being made to protect the species while ensuring that energy production, recreational access and other uses of federal lands continue, state and federal officials say.
“The goal of the Endangered Species Act is not to add to the list, but to protect the species so they never make it to the endangered species list,” Mead said. “Partnering with private industry, agriculture and the federal government has allowed us to balance conservation of the sage-grouse with development and job creation while keeping the bird from being listed.”
A large ground-dwelling bird predominantly found in the West, the decline of the sage-grouse population has been a result of primary threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation due to energy development, wildfire, and invasive plant species.
Based on a 12-month status review pursuant to the ESA, the USFWS announced in March 2010 that it had determined that the listing of the species was warranted, but precluded by higher priorities. The federal agency said that proposing the species for protection is precluded by the need to take action on other species facing more immediate and severe extinction threats.
Greater sage-grouse are found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, eastern California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Greater sage-grouse occupy approximately 56 percent of their historical range.
The birds are found at elevations ranging from 4,000, to over 9,000 feet and are dependent on sagebrush for cover and food.
For a FWS fact sheet on the greater sage-grouse, please click here: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/sagegrouse/GreaterSageGrouseFactSheet2011.pdf.
Meeting participants included: Bob Abbey, Bureau of Land Management director; Dan Ashe, USFWS director; Marlene Finley, U.S. Forest Service deputy regional forester; Dave White, Natural Resources Conservation Service chief, as well as senior representatives from the states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.