Greater sage-grouse are found in 11 western U.S. states, including Idaho. First described by Lewis and Clark in 1804, sage grouse are considered sagebrush obligates, meaning they depend almost entirely on sagebrush for food and protection from predators. Concerns about long-term declines in sage grouse populations have prompted efforts to conserve the species, while balancing levels of land use activity.
In March of 2010, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) designated the greater sage-grouse as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The USFWS must decide by September 30, 2015 whether or not to list the species. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is updating their Resource Management Plans to address the needs of the sage grouse. Each Western state is actively working to preserve the species and its habitat, in an effort to preclude a listing under the ESA.
Governor’s Sage Grouse Alternative
On March 9, 2012, Governor Otter issued an Executive Order establishing the Governor’s Sage Grouse Task Force. This was a diverse group of stake holders that included representatives from local sage grouse working groups, conservation interests, and state and local officials and industry. This group was charged with providing recommendations on actions for developing a state wide regulatory mechanism to preclude the need to list the species under the ESA. The group met eight times between March and May with each meeting open to the public. The Task Force delivered its recommendations to the Governor on June 15, 2012. The Governor then developed a set of guiding principles to help evaluate the strength of the Task Force’s recommendations.
The Governor’s Alternative, which was published on September 5, 2012, adopted the designation of a Sage Grouse Management Area with three distinct management zones: Core Habitat (CHZ), Important Habitat (IHZ), and General Habitat (GHZ). This allows for focusing the most protection on the best habitat, or the CHZ and providing the most flexibility on the GHZ. The Governor’s Alternative builds on the 2006 Sage Grouse Management Plan and focuses on the most urgent threats to the bird's habitat, which is fragmentation due to fire and invasive species. The full version of the alternative can be read below (Federal Alternative of Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter for Greater Sage-Grouse Management in Idaho). This plan is included as one of six alternatives in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process conducted by the BLM for amending 88 Resource Management Plans in sage grouse habitat. The final EIS will be available for public comment in late spring 2015, with the listing decision by September 30, 2015.
In April 2013, the USFWS confirmed that Idaho’s Alternative’s adaptive management strategy is good for sage grouse. Our office is currently working to ensure that the Greater sage-grouse remains under state management through coordination with the USFWS and the BLM.
To complement the Governor’s plan for federal lands, the state of Idaho recently developed a plan for sage grouse conservation on 600K acres of state endowment lands. This plan further demonstrates Idaho’s commitment to conservation of the species across the landscape.
Sage Grouse Management Plan [PDF] - 358 pages
Final IDL Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan [PDF] - 86 pages