The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has released its first national conservation planning strategy to improve the habitat and population of the troubled greater sage grouse.
The BLM intends to strategize with agencies and stakeholders to improve sage grouse conservation measures.
“We just have the framework right now,” said Megan Crandall, spokeswoman for the BLM. “What is different about this is that we are committed to collaborating with our stakeholders.”
The planning strategy divides the sage grouse populated states into two regions. Idaho is in the western region along with California, Nevada, Oregon and Utah. The conservation measures in this region will focus on the bird’s greatest threats, which are invasive plants and wildfires, Crandall said.
The BLM will use the latest sage grouse research and information for each region to amend existing regulations and planning processes.
“This is an ambitious goal but it’s feasible, especially because we are seeking collaboration from other stakeholders,” she said. “Hopefully we can get to a point where the sage grouse will be at a place where it will not have to be listed on the endangered species list.”
Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that the sage grouse warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act, but the bird has not yet been listed.
However, some environmental groups are casting doubt on the BLM’s new plan.
“The sage grouse is not on the downward slope due to a lack of paperwork,” said Brian Ertz, media director for the Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project.
The BLM must commit to curtailing harmful environmental impacts to sage grouse habitat for this strategy to succeed, Ertz said. However, he does not believe enough measures will be taken.
“The ESA works for a reason,” he said. “Trying to avoid listing by creating more paperwork is not the best solution.”