MTPR

Sage Grouse

Greater sage grouse. The Department of Interior announced it's decision today not to recommend endangered species protections for the bird.
USFWS (CC-BY-2)

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said today he is ordering a review of federal efforts to conserve the imperiled sage grouse. Zinke says he wants to ensure that officials in 11 Western states where the bird lives are fully consulted.

US Considers Mining Limits In West To Save Sage Grouse

Dec 29, 2016
The Obama administration offered five possible plans Thursday for limiting mining on federal land in the West to protect the vulnerable greater sage grouse.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region (CC-BY-2)

DENVER (AP) — The Obama administration offered five possible plans Thursday for limiting mining on federal land in the West to protect the vulnerable greater sage grouse, but it isn't saying which it prefers.

The options range from banning new mining activity on about 15,000 square miles for up to 20 years to imposing no additional restrictions on mine locations.

Environmental groups are suing to force the Obama administration to impose more restrictions on oil and gas drilling, grazing and other activities blamed for the decline of greater sage grouse across the American West.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services (CC-BY-2)

Environmental groups are suing to force the Obama administration to impose more restrictions on oil and gas drilling, grazing and other activities blamed for the decline of greater sage grouse across the American West.

Montana Officials Oppose Mining Limits Aimed At Protecting Sage Grouse

Jan 20, 2016
The Obama administration offered five possible plans Thursday for limiting mining on federal land in the West to protect the vulnerable greater sage grouse.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region (CC-BY-2)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana's governor and attorney general objected Wednesday to a federal proposal to withdraw almost a million acres of public land in the state from future mining to protect greater sage grouse.

The Obama administration offered five possible plans Thursday for limiting mining on federal land in the West to protect the vulnerable greater sage grouse.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region (CC-BY-2)

State conservation officials are holding public hearings in greater sage grouse habitat this week to listen to the concerns and comments of private landowners.

Distribution of Sage Grouse Habitat and sagebrush ecotypes in Montana.
FWP Information Services

State officials are working out the details of the landmark agreement to save the greater sage grouse without having to put the bird on the Endangered Species List.

This September the U.S. Department of Interior announced it wouldn’t put the bird on the list, because individual states had come up with their own plans to protect the bird and its habitat.

Gov. Steve Bullock (file photo)
Josh Burnham

Governor Steve Bullock came by our studios yesterday. Hear what he has to say about the sudden departure of his lieutenant governor, cutting Montana’s carbon dioxide emissions, Medicaid expansion and other topics.

Environmental groups are suing to force the Obama administration to impose more restrictions on oil and gas drilling, grazing and other activities blamed for the decline of greater sage grouse across the American West.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services (CC-BY-2)

Tuesday’s announcement that the federal government won't add the greater sage grouse to the endangered species list is being called a historic decision. That’s because the threat of listing spurred state governments, ranchers, the energy industry and environmentalists to come up alternative strategies to protect the bird. Those strategies are being praised by many, but not everyone.

Greater sage grouse. The Department of Interior announced it's decision today not to recommend endangered species protections for the bird.
USFWS (CC-BY-2)

Governor Steve Bullock says Tuesday’s decision to not recommend endangered species protection for the greater sage grouse is good for both industry and conservationists.

The U.S. Department of Interior has decided that the greater sage grouse, a peculiar and distinctly Western bird, does not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

In a statement, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that an unprecedented land conservation effort has already significantly reduced the threats to sage grouse.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the conservation marked a successful effort by the government and ranchers on public and private lands.

Sage Grouse Listing Decision Could Come Next Week

Sep 18, 2015
The Obama administration offered five possible plans Thursday for limiting mining on federal land in the West to protect the vulnerable greater sage grouse.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region (CC-BY-2)

The federal government could announce whether the greater sage grouse will be added to the endangered species list as early as next week.

Alarm bells echoed across the West in 2010 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warned that the greater sage grouse could be put on the Endangered Species List. The end of this month is the deadline for a final decision. In the interim, there has been an enormous amount of work done to protect the bird – enough to suggest a threat is sometimes big enough to get the job done.

Could this have been the intent all along? To make the threat big enough so that an actual listing might be avoided?

The federal government will decide whether or not to list the greater sage grouse on the Endangered Species List later this month. Another sage grouse species, the Gunnison sage grouse, has been on that list since last November. The government followed a distinct and separate process for the Gunnison grouse, classifying it as “threatened”.

About 170 greater sage grouse gather on Wes McStay’s ranch in northwestern Colorado.  They're here to mate in an open field of recently-planted rye.

Biologists call such a gathering a lek, where male grouse perform an elaborate mating dance that involves inflating two yellow air sacs in their chests and then releasing the air with a bubbling pop. 

In May, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stepped up to the podium at a press conference in Boise. The smell of damp sagebrush was in the air, and the foothills in the background were green – a rare sight in the high desert. Jewell then cut to the chase:

“Fire is the number one threat to this ecosystem in the Great Basin states,” said the Obama administration cabinet member.

Brian Maxfield is a wildlife conservation biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. And he's a bit of a voyeur.

Back in the spring, Maxfield strapped transmitters to about a dozen greater sage grouse in northeastern Utah. His goal? To spy on them.

Each bird’s every move is now a mosaic of color-coded dots on a clipboard he keeps in his pickup. Today, he’s honing in on the blue dot. And he’s worried.

Sage Grouse
USFWS Mountain Prairie (CC-BY-2)

Governor Steve Bullock Monday signed on to a joint state and federal plan to provide incentives for farmers and ranchers to preserve sage grouse habitat on their land. The chicken-sized wild bird is in decline and could be listed as an endangered species this fall.

The Obama administration offered five possible plans Thursday for limiting mining on federal land in the West to protect the vulnerable greater sage grouse.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region (CC-BY-2)

Montana will spend about half-a-million dollars annually to assemble a team to oversee management of sage grouse. The bird is a candidate for listing as a threatened or endangered species.

A sage grouse lek in Montana.
NRCS - Montana

Governor Steve Bullock issued an executive order today that he says will help protect sage grouse and ensure the bird remains under state - not federal - management.

Sage grouse are found in 11 states. They've lost over half their historic habitat to development.

Bullock says the Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program provides incentives for landowners to conserve important habitat. It establishes what are called "no surface occupancy zones" around key breeding areas where resource extraction work would be prohibited.

Wind, Wildlife and Weeds

Jul 11, 2014

Montanans have tremendous, untapped opportunity to produce clean and valuable wind energy from the windswept, wide-open spaces of eastern Montana. At the same time, growing concern about the long-term survival of sage grouse in Montana and across the West raises the potential for conflict between energy development and habitat protection.

The Obama administration offered five possible plans Thursday for limiting mining on federal land in the West to protect the vulnerable greater sage grouse.
NRCS - Montana

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission has barred sage-grouse hunting in all or part of 32 counties and shortened the hunting season from two months to one.

An earlier plan that would have closed the entire state to hunting the game birds due to their low numbers.

Instead, all or part of 13 counties in central Montana and six counties in the southwestern part of the state will be open to hunting from Sept. 1 through Sept. 30.