Celebrating conservation: Partners protect sage-grouse in California and Nevada

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it is withdrawing a 2013 proposed rule to list the bi-state distinct population segment of greater sage-grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The bi-state sage-grouse population is an isolated group of sage-grouse living along the California-Nevada border at the southwest edge of the species’ range. 

After an extended, comprehensive analysis of the best available science, the Service has concluded that successful implementation of conservation actions to date, as well as future commitments to aid the bird and its habitat by a coalition of federal, state, tribal, private and non-governmental partners, are sufficient to ameliorate threats to the bird. 

“The Service is humbled and proud to work with such a committed group of partners to conserve the bi-state sage-grouse and its habitat in California and Nevada. This partnership shows that conservation for at-risk species can be successful when we work together and leverage our resources,” said Paul Souza, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director for the Service’s California-Great Basin Region. 

Since 2012, partners in the Bi-State Local Area Working Group have conserved, restored or enhanced more than 100,000 acres of sagebrush sagebrush
The western United States’ sagebrush country encompasses over 175 million acres of public and private lands. The sagebrush landscape provides many benefits to our rural economies and communities, and it serves as crucial habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including the iconic greater sage-grouse and over 350 other species.

Learn more about sagebrush
habitat in the bi-state area, helping reduce habitat fragmentation, pinyon-juniper encroachment and loss of wet meadows used by sage-grouse to raise their young. 

"The sustained commitments and science-based collaborative approach embraced by our partners in the bi-state area provides a solid foundation for conservation success," said Steve Nelson, Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Manager. "We look forward to working with our partners as we continue to implement our shared vision to conserve this iconic species." 

“This extremely positive news is very welcome,” said Carlos Suarez and Ray Dotson, NRCS state conservationists for California and Nevada respectively. “It is an inspiring and desirable outcome of the tireless work across so many different types of boundaries—states, branches of government, private landowners and partnerships. And it is eloquent testimony to the powerful benefits to the land and the species when we all work together.” 

Six sage-grouse populations spread across 4.5 million acres of high desert sagebrush make up the bi-state distinct population segment. Greater sage-grouse are known for the males’ flamboyant springtime mating displays on traditional dancing grounds, known as leks. The birds use a variety of sagebrush habitats on private, state and federal lands. 

In 2013, the Service proposed listing the bi-state DPS of greater sage-grouse as a threatened species with a 4(d) rule and proposed critical habitat. The Service withdrew the proposal in 2015 after concluding the population did not warrant protection, but a May 2018 court ruling vacated the withdrawal. In April 2019, a 60-day public comment period was re-opened for the proposed rule. The comment period made clear that debate existed among experts over the interpretation and accuracy of current scientific information, making it necessary to extend the final determination and re-open the comment period for another 30 days in September 2019. 

“The May 2018 court ruling that required another look at this species has provided our agencies an opportunity to tell the story of effective science-based collaborative conservation with five additional years to develop cutting edge science and deliver conservation for sage-grouse. The bi-state sage grouse conservation model is the epitome of collaborative science based conservation,” said Tony Wasley, Director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “Our department supports this decision, and I’m grateful to have another chance to showcase this conservation story.” 

A copy of the notice is available for public inspection in the Federal Register under docket numbers FWS-R8-ES-2018-0106 and FWS-R8-ES-0107 and will officially publish in the Federal Register on March 31, 2020. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit https://www.fws.gov/cno/ or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr

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