Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
NEVADA FWO: Working to Conserve greater sage-grouse
California-Nevada Offices , July 28, 2010
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Male greater sage-grouse. (photo by Stephen Ting)
Male greater sage-grouse. (photo by Stephen Ting) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Jeannie Stafford, Nevada FWO
In March 2010, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) determined that the greater sage-grouse warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) but that listing at this time was precluded by higher priority actions. This decision placed the greater sage-grouse on the candidate list in 11 western states, including a bi-state population of greater  sage-grouse in western Nevada and eastern California.  Since that determination, conservation efforts have expanded throughout Nevada with a focus on implementation of conservation measures for the bi-state population of the species.

Federal and state agencies as well as many private landowners are incorporating  and considering  greater sage-grouse conservation measures in current and future land management activities.  To be effective, these conservation actions require addressing immediate and long-term threats to the species. 

Some examples of specific on-the-ground activities to conserve the greater sage-grouse include:  avoiding leks; removal of pinyon-juniper woodland in areas where it is encroaching on sagebrush habitat important to greater sage-grouse; protecting riparian (streamside) or other moist areas important for greater sage-grouse brood-rearing; restoring greater sage-grouse habitat after wildfires; and a variety of habitat restoration or protection measures to reduce habitat fragmentation and maintain connectivity.

Although the greater sage-grouse is afforded no protection under the ESA as a candidate species, adding it to the candidate list allows the Service and other agencies an opportunity to work cooperatively with landowners to conserve the species.  Federal financial assistance is available through various Service grants and agreements.  In addition, the Service has the ability to take advantage of the additional management flexibility afforded to candidate species by facilitating development and implementation of Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCAs) and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs).

CCAs are formal, voluntary agreements between the Service and one or more parties to address the conservation needs of one or more candidate or at risk species.  Participants voluntarily commit to implement specific actions designed to remove or reduce threats to the covered species.  CCAs can involve both federally managed and non-federal lands. 
For non-federal landowners seeking regulatory assurances, CCAAs are an effective tool.  A CCAA provides participating property owners with a permit containing assurances that if they engage in certain conservation actions for species included in the agreement, they will not be required to implement additional conservation measures beyond those in the CCAA in the event the species becomes listed as threatened or endangered.  Under these agreements, additional land, water, or resource use limitations would not be imposed unless the landowner consents to the change.  The ultimate goal of developing CCAs or CCAAs for greater sage-grouse is to remove or reduce enough threats to the species to eliminate the need to list it under the ESA. 

Addressing the needs of species before the regulatory requirements associated with listed species come into play often provides an opportunity to stabilize or restore these species and their habitats.  Successful conservation of the greater sage-grouse can only be accomplished by private, state and federal land managers working together.  Incorporating conservation measures for the species in current and future land management activities will be the key to sustaining a healthy population in the future.


Contact Info: Jeannie Stafford, 775-861-6300, jeannie_stafford@fws.gov
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