A Once-in-a-Generation Conservation Opportunity
For eons, sage grouse
have risen before dawn each spring to engage in an ancient mating dance. A
dozen or more male birds strut, fan their elaborate wings and flit about on
breeding grounds while inflating and deflating their bright yellow throat sacs,
creating a haunting, popping echo. All this effort is to catch the eye of
females in the nearby sagebrush.
Sadly, this elaborate courtship ritual could come to an end. The sage
grouse is disappearing right before our eyes and will likely disappear in our
lifetime if we fail to act (see our time-lapse map). But we still have a chance to save the sage grouse.
Oil and gas
extraction, livestock grazing and invasive species have contributed to the
dramatic loss of sagebrush habitat vital for the species’ survival.
The bird’s decline is a warning sign that things are out of balance on our western lands, and other
wildlife such as pronghorn antelope may also be at risk.
is working to safeguard the last remaining habitat for the sage grouse—from the
Sierras to the Rockies.
If we act now, we can make sure that sage grouse keep dancing at sunrise so
that our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to see this amazing
sight. Future generations will marvel at the sage grouse and be inspired by the
open spaces they inhabit, but only
if we save it today.
Between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada exists a vast
legacy of boundless and untamed lands: we call it the Sagebrush Sea and much of
it belongs to every American. Decisive conservation action on nearly 80 million
acres of this landscape has long been delayed and denied. Thanks to our legal
advocacy, it’s now time to protect the entire Sagebrush Sea landscape that the
sage grouse depends on for survival; the same lands that connect and sustain
the wild heart of
the American West.
The sage grouse is an “umbrella species”—a bird that requires vast
tracts of habitat to survive—and protecting this one bird’s Priority Habitats
would provide the room needed to protect dozens of rare and sensitive wildlife
species, from the pygmy rabbit to the sage sparrow. Unique wildlife like the
burrowing owl and white-tailed prairie dog could gain refuges against habitat
destruction, and the ancestral migration routes of pronghorn and mule deer
would be protected within sage grouse Priority Habitats.
Thanks to our legal action, the sage grouse— long a candidate for Endangered
Species Act protection—is finally getting the conservation attention it
deserves. For the first time ever, federal and state land and wildlife
management agencies undertook a multi-year effort to revise land management plans
help protect and recover the sage grouse. But under tremendous pressure from
industry and their political allies, federal agencies rolled out sage grouse
plans that don’t
follow the science and ensure the minimum requirements for sage grouse survival,
Now our challenge will be to strengthen these compromise measures so they meet
the biological needs of sage grouse and the healthy ecosystems on which they
WildEarth Guardians has assembled a team that includes experts in sage grouse
science, environmental law, public lands policy, and wildlife advocacy to
capitalize on this unprecedented opportunity to save the sage grouse, unspoiled
tracts of the Sagebrush Sea upon which it depends for habitat, and in the process secure protection for hundreds
of species of native wildlife across the American West.
We want to help sage grouse stand their ground against the likes of Exxon and BP.
Fracking’s Achilles Heel
The sagebrush basins of the American West that have borne the brunt of
the fossil fuels industry are also the prime habitat for the sage grouse.
Already tens of thousands of oil and gas wells dot the Sagebrush Sea with even
more miles of pipelines and roads that have destroyed sagebrush habitats and
fragmented landscapes. Until recently, nothing could stop or even slow the
fossil fuels juggernaut: then the sage grouse took center stage.
Sage grouse need a protective buffer of at least four miles around their nests,
giving us the best chance to finally apply the brakes to fossil fuel
The Last Roundup
For over a century, domestic sheep and cattle have grazed Sagebrush Sea
landscapes to the bone. When too many cattle are turned loose on sagebrush
habitats, livestock graze grasses down to bare dirt, exposing nests and young
chicks to predators while also setting the stage for noxious weed invasions,
which in turn lead to more frequent and more devastating wildfires.
Retiring livestock grazing from millions of acres offers ranchers an equitable
exit strategy and is perhaps the best chance for rehabilitating damaged public
lands and conserving sage grouse. Securing federal legislation that authorizes
voluntary and permanent grazing permit retirement is a key objective of our
Sagebrush Sea campaign.
Help The Dance Go On Forever
The sage grouse represents the conservation opportunity of our
generation with the possibility to protect nearly 80 millions acres of public
land from two of the most destructive—and powerful—industries in the West: the
ranching and the oil and gas industries.
But effectively reining in these two powerful industries means that we need to
greatly expand our campaign for the Sagebrush Sea.
We’ve already devoted more than a decade to conserving the sage grouse,
beginning in 2003 when we sought to protect the species under the Endangered
Species Act. New federal plans identify over 50 million acres as ‘Priority
Habitat Management Areas’ slated for stronger sage grouse protections. Now it’s
up to conservation groups who have the courage to improve these plans and make
them workable. This will take legal action and constant vigilance as a welter
of industrial projects gets a new start after years of being on hold.
WildEarth Guardians wants your help to greatly expand our Sagebrush Sea
campaign. Please help us win this unique conservation opportunity—for the grouse
and for our western public lands.
Take Action Today