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BLM Lays Out Strategy To Protect Sage Grouse Across The West

The Bureau of Land Management released new plans Thursday for managing sage grouse habitat across public lands in Oregon, Idaho and eight other Western states.

Sage grouse populations have been hit hard east of the Cascades: from habitat loss, invasive species, grazing, and wildfires. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has called these threats “a death of one-thousand cuts.”

The agency will decide by this September whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

The BLM calls its new conservation plans a "proactive strategy" to protect the grouse. The agency is proposing actions like improving habitat, managing fire more carefully and preventing habitat fragmentation.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell oversees the BLM. She issued a statement upon the plan's release, saying the BLM's approach will be important to the sage grouse's chance of survival, given that two-thirds of the bird's habitat is on BLM land.

"Together with conservation efforts from states and private landowners, we are laying an important foundation to save the disappearing sagebrush landscape of the American West,” Jewell said.

READ: 3 Things To Know About Protecting The West's Greater Sage Grouse

Dan Morse is with the Oregon Natural Desert Association. He's pleased that the plan calls for protections of two of the state’s most important habitat strongholds: the Owyhee and Hart-Sheldon regions.

"Our hope is that those protections will be meaningful," Morse said. "That being said we cannot only focus on those areas. Because disconnecting sage grouse populations is a sure recipe for their extirpation."

The proposed plan has a two-month review period before being finalized.

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<p>A male great western sage grouse. The bird's numbers have plummeted across the West. </p>

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


A male great western sage grouse. The bird's numbers have plummeted across the West.

Amanda Peacher