Sagebrush plans announced for West

The greater sage-grouse has ruffled feathers in recent years as populations have declined. New management proposals for federal sagebrush landscapes aim to keep the birds healthy, while preserving traditional land uses. Photo credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

<span>SALT LAKE CITY – The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service on Thursday unveiled </span><a href=”” target=”parent”>a set of plans</a><span> to manage sagebrush landscapes in Utah and across the West.</span>

<span>Each plan is tailored to a region with three objectives: reduce wildfire threats, reduce disturbances of key greater sage-grouse habitats and improve habitat for greater sage-grouse and about 350 other species.</span>

<span>Ken Rait, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. Public Lands program, said most of the prime habitats are not prime oil and gas development areas, which means careful planning creates a win-win.</span>

<span>”I believe that we can have our cake and eat it, too, here,” he said. “We can responsibly conserve the sage grouse while allowing for responsible energy development.”</span>

<span>Rait said the state-led plans that cover private and state properties are acknowledged, and those details are part of the overall collaboration to keep sage-grouse populations healthy. He stressed that the issue often is political, and initial negative reactions claim that the federal agencies didn’t listen to local concerns.</span>

<span>Jack Connelly, a certified wildlife biologist who has worked on sage-grouse conservation issues for nearly 40 years, said decades of scientific research are available for the species and plans based on science are likely to succeed.</span>

<span>”If BLM succeeds with their plans, then I think sage-grouse conservation is assured,” he said. “If they don’t succeed, we’re in a world of hurt.”</span>

<span>According to the BLM, the greater sage-grouse population has been declining, and could be as low as 200,000 birds, after being measured in the millions in the past.</span>


<em>Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.</em>

<span>State plans are listed online at </span><a href=”” target=”parent”></a><span>.</span>

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