Plans To Save Bi-State Sage Grouse in Nevada Gain Momentum
April 12, 2016
Photo: The Bodie Hills near the California/Nevada border are prime habitat for the Bi-State sage grouse.
“We’re ‘all in’ to make a difference for this bird over the long term,” said Thad Heater, Sage Grouse Initiative’s national coordinator.
The Bi-State sage grouse is a distinct population with a habitat from just south of Carson City in the Pine Nut Range to the White Mountains straddling the California-Nevada state line in Esmeralda County.
The bird — related to the greater sage grouse found across much of Nevada and the West — has seen its numbers decline over the years. Some estimates put the loss at 50 percent from historic levels. Officials with several federal agencies, Nevada and California where the birds are found, along with ranchers and volunteers, are working to keep it from extinction.
Loss of habitat and predators are two major reasons the birds are in decline.
A voluntary, coordinated effort by the federal government and the states, called the Sage Grouse Initiative, has been implemented to help increase the sage grouse populations. Nearly $20 million has been invested in conservation easements and habitat improvements to help them thrive.
Thad Heater, national coordinator of the Sage Grouse Initiative for the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service in Reno, said there is a strong commitment among many partners, from state and local government agencies to ranchers and volunteers who perform lek counts to improve the health of the bird populations.
This voluntary conservation partnership is responsible for significantly reducing long-term threats to the bistate sage grouse, the agency said. The Bi-State Action Plan, a conservation plan developed by partners in the Bi-State Local Area Working Group over the past 15 years, is secured with $45 million from various partners.
“We’re ‘all in’ to make a difference for this bird over the long term,” Heater said.
In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the bistate sage grouse “distinct population segment” as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The agency cited multiple threats to the grouse and their habitats, including livestock grazing, the spread of invasive species, range fires, urban sprawl, mining, energy development, recreation and climate change.
The population has been defined as distinct because genetic analysis shows it has been separated from other greater sage grouse for thousands of years and the differences are significant, the agency said.
But in April 2015, the agency announced its decision to withdraw the proposed listing based on the success of voluntary conservation efforts to recover this species and its habitat.
The agency noted that the conservation effort has reduced long-term threats to the bird, a population estimated at 1,800to 7,400 inhabiting about 4.5 million acres on the California-Nevada border.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said last year the decision not to list the population showed that conservation strategies can be effective, allowing both the bird and economic development to coexist.
The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.