On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper marked the one-year anniversary of the historic decision not to list the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act by celebrating the ongoing unprecedented collaborative conservation effort to conserve the sagebrush ecosystem with stakeholders at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.
The Administration, in partnership with the Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), also released a report highlighting recent actions to conserve the sagebrush ecosystem, including efforts to minimize further habitat disturbance, restore the health of fire-impacted landscapes, reduce invasive grasses and provide opportunities for landowners and ranchers to invest in conservation actions that benefit the greater sage-grouse and the success of their own operations.
The roundtable provided representatives from the federal family, ranchers, industry, conservation community and the states an opportunity to discuss continued success of on-going efforts, challenges and next steps as they work together to implement the landscape-scale, science-based, collaborative habitat conservation plans.
“One year later, there’s a lot to celebrate,” Jewell said. “We knew that the work didn’t stop with the listing determination, and I’m pleased that we collectively continue to make great progress on addressing threats to the bird, conserving the sagebrush habitat and providing a path forward for sustainable economic development.”
"The diversity of people here today is evidence that there continues to be a broad commitment to conservation of the greater sage-grouse from more than just federal and state regulators,” Hickenlooper said. “We'll need to maintain that broad level of support from landowners and others to ensure Bureau of Land Management's RMPs can be implemented as intended, which is to conserve the species as well as support economic sustainability.”
“The Sage Grouse Initiative is an example of how when agriculture and conservation partner together, we can reach our common goals for the greater good,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “More than 1,300 ranchers have conserved over 5 million acres of land as a part of this effort and USDA has invested more than $400 million to reach $760 million with our partners through 2018. Through the commitment of America’s ranchers to improving habitats for other wildlife, we have achieved a historic outcome for the sage grouse, and shown that conservation can also benefit ranching operations and our rural economies.”
The meeting marks the one-year anniversary of the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) announcement that the greater sage-grouse does not warrant protection of the Endangered Species Act because of historic conservation and partnership efforts. The long-term decline of the greater sage-grouse and its sagebrush habitat sparked an unprecedented collaborative conservation effort across 11 western states that continues today.
The FWS reached the no-listing determination after evaluating the bird’s population status, along with collective efforts by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), state agencies, private landowners and ranchers and other partners to conserve its habitat.
Earlier this month, the BLM issued internal guidance that clarifies how aspects of the agency’s land use plans will be implemented as it relates to oil and gas leasing and development, grazing and the collection and use of land management data. Those land use plans, developed in cooperation among local, state and federal agencies as well as private landowners, were cited by the FWS as a key reason it found that the greater sage-grouse did not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The greater sage-grouse is an umbrella species, emblematic of the health of sagebrush habitat it shares with more than 350 other kinds of wildlife, including world-class populations of mule deer, elk, pronghorn and golden eagles. Roughly half of the sage-grouse’s habitat is on federal lands, most of it managed by the BLM and USFS. These tend to be drier uplands where the birds mate, nest and spend fall and winter. While the federal plans that were developed to save the greater sage-grouse may differ in specifics to reflect local landscapes, threats and conservation approaches, their overall goal is to prevent further degradation of the best remaining sage-grouse habitat, minimize disturbance where possible and mitigate unavoidable impacts by protecting and improving similar habitat.
For more information about the greater sage-grouse, please visit www.doi.gov/sagegrouse.