Salazar wants Wyo-style sage grouse management across the West

At a press conference in Cheyenne today Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wyoming’s “core areas” sage grouse habitat management plan could be applied across the West to protect the iconic bird. He said that in 2012 the largest wind energy project in the nation will be permitted in Wyoming — a feat only possibly because of the state’s pro-active efforts to protect sage grouse habitat.

“We need to be doing that across the 11 western states,” said Salazar.

Greater sage-grouse (click to enlarge)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has until 2015 to decide whether the greater sage grouse requires a full listing under the Endangered Species Act. If the bird is listed, it would devastate agriculture, energy, recreational and myriad other activities across much of the West, and would impact about 80 percent of Wyoming.

The joint news conference today between Salazar and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead coincided with a meeting in Cheyenne of representatives from 11 western states. Mead said the goal is to form a cooperative strategy to avoid a sage grouse listing based on habitat conservation. “We also need to recognize that by doing a good job of protecting habitat for sage grouse, we’re also protecting habitat for 80 other species,” said Mead.

Salazar added that the health of the greater sage grouse is a litmus test for the health of the western lifestyle.

Also this week, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced it would begin the process of amending all of its Resource Management Plans across the West to improve protections for sage grouse. The announcement was welcome by some in the environmental community. But with praise for the BLM’s decision also came criticism that the BLM had been dragging its feet on the issue for years.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, center, and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, right, discuss strategies to conserve sage grouse habitat with representatives from 11 western states on Friday. (courtesy — click to enlarge)

“We are pleased that the BLM is finally recognizing that its standard operating procedures on sage grouse are failing, particularly with regard to oil and gas development,” Biodiversity Conservation Alliance wildlife biologist Erik Molvar said in a prepared statement. “The sage grouse plan amendments offer an opportunity not only to replace inadequate BLM protections, but also to close the loopholes in state Core Area policies that prevent them from protecting sage grouse in the face of industrial development.”

— Contact Dustin Bleizeffer at (307) 577-6069 or

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Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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