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BLM to Lift the Boundaries for Sage Grouse

July 28, 2011

LARAMIE, Wyo. - Birds don't choose where they live based on lines drawn on a map. That's the basis of a new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policy on sage grouse, which have been studied for a possible Endangered Species Act listing because of declining numbers.

Previous policy focused on each BLM district and even state lines. Looking at the entire range all at once is the right thing to do, says Eric Molvar, a Biodiversity Conservation Alliance wildlife biologist.

"Now, the trick is going to be to make sure that when this new policy comes into effect, it has all the rigorous, science-based measures that are actually going to allow the sage grouse to recover in the face of development in its key territories."

Molvar's group was the first to propose the concept of managing habitat for sage grouse based on their entire range.

Sage grouse require undisturbed ranges which include sagebrush and grasses, and open areas for nesting season. Even though sage grouse conservation has at times been controversial, Molvar says, he thinks the success possible with the new policy is something upon which everyone can agree.

"If we can recover the sage grouse populations and reverse the downward trend in sage grouse numbers, then listing becomes unnecessary and that's an outcome that benefits everybody."

The state of Wyoming proposed a similar plan, but Molvar says there were too many loopholes to ensure the bird population would grow.

Details from the BLM are online at blm.gov.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY