Declining Sage Grouse in the American West: Can the Threat of Listing this Species Help Transform the Bureau of Land Management?

Mark Salvo
Grasslands Advocate, American Lands Alliance, 408 SW Second Avenue, Suite 412, Portland, Oregon 97204; 503-978-1054; 503-978-1757 (fax);

The sage grouse is a widely ranged, sparsely distributed species that lives in the vast "Sagebrush Sea" in the western US and Canada. Two sage grouse species have experienced significant declines over the past 50 to 150 years. Conservationists have identified the sage grouse as an important indicator, umbrella, and flagship species for sagebrush ecosystems, and have developed a conservation strategy centered on the bird, including the preparation of petitions to list sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The Bureau of Land Management manages most sage grouse habitat. Resource users fear the potential impacts of listing sage grouse—the "spotted owl of the desert"—on activities Bureau of Land Management permits on federal public lands. For the same reason, conservationists look forward to the changes listing the sage grouse
might bring to agency policy and land management. There is already evidence that the threat of listing sage grouse may be contributing to an evolving conservation ethic within the agency, which may lead to improved management of public lands.