Feds finalize sage-grouse protection plan

Feds finalize sage-grouse protection plan
© WildEarth Guardians

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Thursday published its final guidelines for how it will work to protect the greater sage-grouse from harms like oil and natural gas drilling.

The BLM put out seven memorandums to land managers in the West detailing how to balance protection of the chicken-sized bird with activities like grazing and drilling, and how to monitor the progress of the protections.

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It’s the last major federal step in the government’s bid to conserve the sage-grouse and its habitat.

The Fish and Wildlife Service decided last year that the bird does not warrant formal protections under the Endangered Species Act, due in part to efforts that the BLM, states and others were undertaking on their own.

“Consistent with our unprecedented cooperation in developing the greater sage-grouse plans, the implementation policies we are releasing today were developed in coordination with our partners in the states and interested stakeholders,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said in a statement.

“These instruction memorandums respond to state and stakeholder desires to see clear and consistent application of our management activities across the western greater sage-grouse states while providing the flexibility needed to respond to local situations and concerns.”

The greater sage-grouse was at the center of the most vocal debate over endangered species in recent years. Development and other land uses have dramatically reduced the species’s numbers, but business interests feared that a heavy-handed response from the federal government would be extremely expensive.