04/26/2019 - Regulatory Rollback - Student Work

Greater Sage-Grouse Amended Resource Management Plans

by Grace Weatherall, JD 2021

In March, the Trump administration introduced its final revisions to Obama-era greater sagegrouse conservation plans in Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and Nevada/Northeastern California. The revised plans were drafted in the context of SO 3353, an order from the Secretary of the Interior directing states to redraft conservation plans with job creation, resource extraction, and development in mind, and the new plans follow those priorities.

The resulting rollbacks in greater sage-grouse protection are significant: the plans include provisions allowing oil and gas drilling, mining activity, and other development near greater sage-grouse breeding grounds, called leks, and other sensitive habitat. To follow updates on other regulatory changes and legal challenges related to the greater sage-grouse protection, check our page on the regulatory rollback tracker here.

Oregon

As of 2018, Oregon was home to approximately 18,421 greater sage-grouserepresenting a 10.2% decrease in population from 2017. The Oregon plan area includes approximately 60,649 acres of BLM-managed habitat, and the Trump administration’s revised management plan opens 21,959 of those acres, formerly key Research Natural Areas, to livestock grazing. Plan available here

Colorado

BLM manages 1.7 million acres of greater sage-grouse habitat in Colorado. The Obama-era plans banned oil and gas leasing within one mile of active leksThe Trump revisions open these sensitive areas to oil and gas leasing, though restrictions such as no-surface-occupancy requirements have been implemented. Plan available here

Idaho

BLM oversees 8.8 million acres of greater sage-grouse habitat in Idaho. The plan revisions for Idaho reduce buffers around leks in general habitat management areas. Energy development will now be allowed within 0.6 miles of leks, and roads within 0.25 miles. Further, exceptions to even these reduced buffers are now available where it would be impractical to locate the project outside the buffer, and impacts are “minor or nonexistent.” Plan available here

Utah

BLM manages 2.5 million acres of greater sage-grouse habitat in UtahThe Utah plan revisions include adding exceptions to restrictions on surface occupancy, reducing compensatory mitigation requirements, and, in line with SO 3353, the general directive to promote development alongside preservation efforts. Plan available here.

Wyoming

Wyoming is home to over a third of the country’s entire greater sage-grouse population (37%) and it includes nearly 18 million acres of BLM-managed grouse habitat. The revised plan for Wyoming creates exceptions for new project noise levels in priority habitat management areas on a casebycase basis subject to appropriate site-specific analysis, mitigation requirements, and consultation with the State of Wyoming.... The revisions also open a total of approximately 21,251,690 acres to mineral exploration and mining in priority habitat management areas. Plan available here

Nevada/Northeastern California

The Nevada/Northeastern California region includes 45.4 million acres of BLM-managed habitat. Under the revised plan, state-determined boundaries of greater sage-grouse habitat management areas will be reviewed and refined every 3 to 5 years. Further, changes to the boundaries can be made without a significant resource management plan amendment process. BLM will adjust boundaries to its habitat areas “through plan maintenance or amendment, as appropriate.” BLM has reported the Nevada/Northeastern California greater sage-grouse population has declined at an average rate of 3.86% annually from 1999 to 2016. Wildfires in this area continue to pose a serious risk as wildfires burned approximately 1.3 million acres of grouse habitat between 2015 and 2017Although approximately 175,546 acres of habitat were improved during that same twoyear periodmore habitat has been lost than gained or improved. Plan available here