"The Biden Administration Throws a Lifeline to the Greater Sage-Grouse"

"Public asked to weigh in on new rule to limit development on the bird's habitat across much of the West".

"One of the most iconic species in the West is a bird with a flashy mating dance. Every spring, greater sage-grouse gather at sites called leks to compete for mates. The males puff out their chests—literally expanding bright-yellow sacs in their chests like balloons—and spread their spiky tail feathers, like a splayed folded fan, to attract females.

However, the birds have faced a significant population decline in the last few decades. They make their homes in large swaths of the sagebrush steppe, a unique grassland system that is threatened by human development, wildlife, drought, and invasive cheatgrass. The “sagebrush sea,” spanning much of the Intermountain West, is the largest terrestrial ecosystem in the lower 48 states—but a 2022 US Geological Survey report found that over the last 20 years, an average of 1.3 million acres of sagebrush have been lost or degraded annually. Greater sage-grouse populations are suffering because of this: From 1965 to 2021, their numbers plummeted by nearly 80 percent. According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), populations once in the millions now number fewer than 800,000.

Of the remaining 145 million acres of viable habitat, approximately 67 million acres are managed by the BLM. In March, the federal land management agency announced the release of the Greater Sage-Grouse Resource Management Plan. The plan, currently in draft form, could limit uses like energy development and livestock grazing across 10 western states—giving the birds the protections they sorely need."

Alison Harford reports for Sierra magazine May 23, 2024.


Source: Sierra, 05/24/2024