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 on sagebrush for food and protection from predators. Concerns about long-term declines in sage grouse populations have prompted large-scale efforts to conserve the species, balanced with the continuation of land-use activities.
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), and must decide by September 30, 2015 whether or not to list the species. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently updating federal Resource Management Plans to address the needs of the sage-grouse through a range-wide land-use plan amendment process. Additionally, each western state is actively working to implement plans to conserve the species and its habitat, in an effort to preclude a listing under the ESA.
Governor’s Sage Grouse Alternative
In March 2012, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter issued an executive order establishing the Governor’s Sage-Grouse Task Force. This diverse group of stake holders which included representatives from industry, sportsmen and conservation groups, and elected officials, was charged with providing recommendations on actions needed for developing a state-wide conservation plan 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 in June of 2012, which were then rolled into an “Alternative” for incorporation into the federal land-use plan amendment process.
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 managers to provide a high level of protection to the best habitat, or the CHZ and provide 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 Governor’s Alternative has received support from many federal agencies. The final plan for sage-grouse conservation on federal lands, which includes portions of the Governor’s Alternative, was released on May 28, 2015. The final EIS can be read below (Idaho and Southwestern Montana Greater Sage-Grouse Final Environmental Impact Statement).
To complement the Governor’s Alternative for federal lands, the state recently completed a plan aimed at sage-grouse conservation on 600,000 acres of state endowment lands. This plan further demonstrates Idaho’s commitment to sage-grouse conservation.
Governor Otter signed a final executive order on May 27, 2015, to reinforce Idaho’s greater sage-grouse conservation planning efforts. The executive order unites efforts to protect sage grouse and its habitat across all land-ownerships to avoid a listing under the federal ESA, balanced with multiple use activities on public land.
Sage Grouse Management Plan [PDF] - 358 pages
Final IDL Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan [PDF] - 86 pages