Greater Sage-Grouse

The Greater Sage-Grouse is a large, ground-dwelling bird that inhabits 186 million acres in 11 western states. The bird’s habitat range encompasses a substantial portion of the West and overlaps a number of natural resources, including oil and natural gas.

When operating near sage grouse, companies follow detailed prescriptions in federal and state management plans to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to the bird its habitat. On average, 6.5 conservation measures are implemented on each project to protect the grouse. When development occurs on federal lands in or near sage grouse habitat, companies go through the lengthy environmental review process to ensure impacts are minimized.

Western Energy Alliance has been actively involved in the development of state and federal sage grouse plans, and members continue to fund voluntary conservation efforts such as the Sage Grouse Initiative and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative. We strongly support continued efforts to ensure a healthy population of Greater Sage-Grouse and its habitat.

The population of the species declined significantly at the beginning of the century before experiencing a significant recent upturn. Today, grouse populations fluctuate significantly based on variations in climate, predation, and the impacts of wildfires.

Because of a landmark settlement agreement with environmental groups in 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was required to determine whether to list the species under the Endangered Species Act. FWS found that sage grouse are not threatened or endangered and announced a not warranted decision.

The 2015 decision reflected the results of a years-long, comprehensive, and voluntary stakeholder effort to increase sage grouse populations and enhance their habitat, and those efforts continue today. States across the West take the lead in implementing sage grouse plans which include conservation programs, mitigation funds, research projects, and on-the-ground habitat restoration projects. As an example, the State of Utah has overseen significant habitat enhancement by clearing out pinyon juniper, the removal of which has been found to increase sage grouse populations by double-digit percentages.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service also updated 98 individual land management and forest plans prior to the 2015 listing decision, and BLM revised some of those plans in 2019 to further align with the state plans. The agencies issued two joint records of decision (ROD) for the 2015 plans, and BLM and USFS separately updated individual offices’ plans via amendments in 2019. These plans remain in effect today.