Forest Service sneaks away sage-grouse protections in FEISs

The five long versions of everything the agency did wrong with the Final Environmental Impact Statements “amending” the existing Obama-era sage-grouse land use plans can be found by state on WWP’s website:  IdahoWyomingColoradoUtah and Nevada.

The short version is this: The agency didn’t just take away over 200,000 acres of protected areas (mostly in Wyoming) and rearrange habitat designations to weaken protections in Nevada and Utah too, but it used tiny and tricky word changes to gut the protections those acres are supposed to have, resulting in a cumulative large-scale loss of conservation for this at-risk species.

Greater sage-grouse populations are dwindling in all western states, even those with the last remaining strongholds for the species. Over the past few years sage-grouse numbers are down 61 percent in Utah, 33 percent in Nevada, 52 percent in Idaho and 44 percent in Wyoming. In Oregon the 43 percent decline is the lowest since reliable counts began more than 25 years ago. In North Dakota only 29 males came out to strut last spring. Sage-grouse has population cycles, and some variation in population size between years is to be expected, due to weather-related factors. However, and according to a leading sage-grouse scientist, the large declines in recent years over multiple states are of a magnitude that cannot be attributed to natural cycles or weather. These declines are a sign that the 2015 plans didn’t go far enough to stem the declines in sage-grouse populations.

Weakening public lands sage-grouse management even further will inevitably continue the downward trend. Pair the Forest Service changes with the BLM’s hack-and-slash from earlier this year and you’ve got a species facing extinction.









  1. Dale Houston Avatar
    Dale Houston

    BLM has been the Fox pretending to watching the chicken house. All for the benefit of the FAT CATS and not the general public…very sad.

  2. Barrie K Gilbert Avatar

    Thank you Greta for alerting us to our chronic failures in conserving even representative populations of a marvellous species. Western Watersheds is a leader. However, I think we all suffer from the “shifting baseline” syndrome, the documented trend to fail to see that our data on declines in numbers is a gross underestimate.
    I studied the whole Tetraonidae family when I tried to design a PhD project in 1965 and I came to Utah 50 years ago and got further interested in this iconic bird. I found an astonishing MS thesis (1939 Lynn Griner) on Greater Sage Grouse in Utah. His surveys of winter flocks suggests millions of this bird in winter flocks. So when we use decline percentages the baseline is already far too low. I think we might say that GSG have declined -99% both in numbers and areas occupied.
    For about 200 years cattle and sheep have devastated Utah’s vegetation communities in ways we barely know.

    keep up the good work, Western Watersheds.

    1. Greta Anderson Avatar
      Greta Anderson

      Very good point, Barrie, and indeed so. You are absolutely right that the recent downward trends should be contextualized in the larger story of a vanishing species. Thanks for the reminder.


  3. snaildarter Avatar

    Very sad but not a surprise considering this Presidents total disregard for the natural world. Let’s not forget a fish stinks from the head down.

  4. idaursine Avatar

    >:( I keep thinking of the ‘greatest collaboration ever’, which we knew would never materialize, and was just a way to skate around an ESA listing:

  5. idaursine Avatar

    I still love this song:

  6. Bruce Bowen Avatar
    Bruce Bowen

    The amount of pesticides used on federally managed land is truly frightening. Literally tons of poisonous chemicals. I think that those that have the resources should create maps and overlays showing where pesticides have been used and where various species of wildlife are having problems. Chronic wasting disease comes to mind where vegetation may have been treated with weed killers containing glyphosate.

    The USDI BLM has a memo #2016-115 entitled “Grasshopper and Mormon cricket Treatments within Sage Grouse Habitat.
    Pesticides such as Diflubenzuran, carbaryl bate and malathion are mentioned as possible controlling agents.

    I don’t have access to much BLM info but it looks like a large number of grazing allotments are being considered for various chemical treatment. At least 49 different pesticides have been approved for use on BLM administered lands in 17 western states according to BLM’s own website.

    Wildlife does not stand much of a chance really as the agencies continue to set back ecological succession and poison the environment as well. This will probably bring the wrath of heaven down upon us as a nation and shorten our own survival.

  7. Bruce Bowen Avatar
    Bruce Bowen

    This is an update to the above comment: The BLM’s programatic environmental document entitled “Vegetation Treatments on BLM Lands in 17 Western States (2007)” states on page 2-2 that “20 different herbicides were approved for use in one or more states…..” The catch is that there are over 200 different formulations listed by brand name & label which can have varying mixtures of the main 20 herbicides that BLM lists. These herbicides frequently contain additives which may have biological impacts as well. The above document does not mention greater sage grouse but only mentions those species which were either already designated as threatened and endangered or were being considered for listing.

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