U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

An antelope runs across the sagebrush with an oil rig in the distance


Information icon A pronghorn outside a development site near Pinedale, Wyoming. Photo by Theo Stein, USFWS.

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Sagebrush country plays a critical role in powering America and providing minerals and other natural resources. Many of the public, private, and tribal lands where sagebrush is found are leased in parcels of land to oil and gas companies, or are used for mineral development.

Mindful development practices are essential in order to sustain America’s wildlife populations now and into the future. When our industry partners can implement voluntary, proactive conservation actions - before species are listed or their habitats become highly imperiled - this increases the likelihood that simpler, more cost-effective conservation options are available and that conservation efforts will succeed. In addition, early conservation efforts offer resource managers and property owners more flexibility.

Did you know?

Wyoming is home to 43 million acres of sagebrush and supports 37% of America’s greater sage-grouse populations. It also is among the top three energy-producing states in the country, holds one-third of the country’s coal reserves and, in 2016, produced 40% of all coal mined in the U.S. (Source).

Impacts to Wildlife

A landscape image in Wyoming, with brown and green soil and a blue sky, featuring a tall oil rig on the landscape
Oil rigs. Photo by BLM Wyoming.

Currently, the vast majority of sagebrush species do not require protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which means that species conservation can happen in a more proactive fashion. When a species receiving ESA protection could be impacted by development projects on federal lands, or projects funded through federal dollars, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to consider those impacts and provide recommendations to ensure the species is not jeopardized.

In the eastern portions of sagebrush country, in the states of Wyoming and Colorado, energy development is one of the biggest causes of habitat fragmentation and degradation. Some of the most productive gas fields overlap with the winter range for species like mule deer, and new research on this relationship suggests that wells affect species behavior, displacing them and possibly leading to impacts to population health.

A balanced and sustainable approach to development that meets the needs of people, while minimizing or eliminating impacts to wildlife, is the recipe for long-term success. Avoiding high-density placement of wells, turbines, and other extractive tools in sagebrush habitats promotes higher probabilities that greater sage-grouse and other sagebrush-dependent wildlife will not be negatively impacted.

Many local, state, non-profit, and federal partners are working together to every day toward this goal, and the Service offers voluntary conservation programs for industry partners interested in conserving wildlife for future generations.

Voluntary Conservation Tools for Industry

A herd of Pronghorn Antelope stand near a natural gas well in sagebrush country
A natural gas well near Pinedale, Wyoming. Photo by BLM Wyoming.

Through science-based solutions, the Service works with industry partners to proactively conserve species in need while conducting their general business operations.

To learn more about opportunities to work with us, visit our conservation opportunities page.

More Information

A landscape image of sagebrush country, showing an oil well in the ecosystem
An oil well in sagebrush country in Wyoming. Photo by BLM Wyoming.