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Nevada Sagebrush Bill: Not Enough for Grouse Conservation

Wilderness protections helpful, but additional safeguards needed to avert ESA listing

LARAMIE, Wyo. – An environmental group focused on sage grouse conservation says the Nevada Sagebrush Conservation and Development bill, first unveiled in December by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Dean Heller (R-NV), fails to be large enough in geographic scope and bold enough in conservation prescriptions to meaning fully protect sage grouse by itself.
 
According to a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis by WildEarth Guardians, the bill would only protect a maximum of 14% of sage grouse Priority Habitats and General Habitats as wilderness, while the remaining 86% of sage grouse habitats would not be eligible for protection.
 
“Wilderness protection provides strong safeguards against road construction, energy development, and transmission lines, but it doesn’t provide specific conservation protection for sage grouse from livestock overgrazing and the cheatgrass-wildfire cycle that follows in its wake,” said Erik Molvar, Wildlife Biologist with WildEarth Guardians. “That’s an added challenge that will still need to be tackled.”
 
The groups’ analysis also delved into the bill’s proposals for habitat impact fees and the programs they might fund, finding that juniper removal and cheatgrass treatments hold some promise on a limited scale, while it is doubtful that provisions in the bill to fund predator control would benefit sage grouse.
 
“The legislation as currently proposed does not protect most sage grouse habitats, and thus it is no substitute for the protections being contemplated in federal land-use plans,” concluded Molvar. “But if it is paired with a strong and science-based protections in federal plan amendments that shield sage grouse Priority Habitats from the threats facing them, together these measures could establish sufficient protections to recover sage grouse populations to secure numbers, and render Endangered Species Act listing unnecessary.”
 
The analysis is available online and a .jpg image of the GIS-based map from the report showing sage grouse habitats overlaid with potential wilderness is available upon request.


 

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