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Save America's Greater Sage-Grouse from Extinction

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The Greater Sage-Grouse is on the brink of extinction; your action today can save this iconic bird and its fragile habitat.

The Greater Sage-Grouse, an iconic bird of the American West, is teetering on the brink of extinction. This majestic bird, known for its spectacular mating displays, once thrived across millions of acres in the western United States. Today, their population has plummeted due to habitat loss, climate change, and human activities.

A Species in Crisis

The Greater Sage-Grouse population has declined nearly 80% since 1968, with a shocking 40% drop since 20021. The primary causes are habitat fragmentation and degradation, largely from oil and gas development, livestock grazing, and invasive species. Despite conservation efforts, the sage-grouse population continues to dwindle, underscoring the urgent need for stronger protections.

Federal, state, and private land managers have long recognized the need to conserve and restore the sagebrush ecosystem. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which oversees nearly 67 million acres of sage-grouse habitat, has been at the forefront of these efforts2. However, existing measures have proven insufficient to halt the decline, making immediate action critical.

Current Efforts and Proposals

In response to the alarming decline, the BLM has proposed new management plans to enhance sage-grouse protections on public lands. These plans incorporate the latest scientific research and input from various stakeholders. The draft environmental impact statement analyzing the potential effects of six proposed alternatives opened for public comment in March 20242.

One of the key proposals is Alternative 3, which offers the most comprehensive protections for sage-grouse habitat. This alternative includes the designation of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) to protect the most vital habitats from harmful activities such as oil and gas drilling. Conservation groups, including the American Bird Conservancy, are advocating for this alternative, arguing that it provides the best chance for the sage-grouse's survival3.

The Importance of the Sagebrush Ecosystem

The sagebrush ecosystem, often referred to as the Sagebrush Sea, is critical not only for the Greater Sage-Grouse but also for hundreds of other species. This vast landscape supports wildlife such as pronghorn, mule deer, pygmy rabbits, and various bird species. The health of the sage-grouse population is a key indicator of the overall health of this ecosystem.

However, the Sagebrush Sea faces numerous threats, including invasive species, wildfires, and climate change4. Invasive plants like cheatgrass have altered the fire regime, leading to more frequent and intense wildfires that destroy sagebrush habitat. Additionally, prolonged droughts exacerbated by climate change further stress this fragile ecosystem.

Challenges and the Need for Action

Despite the clear need for action, efforts to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse have been met with significant challenges and controversies. The bird is not listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), largely due to political and economic pressures. A 2014 Congressional moratorium prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the sage-grouse under the ESA, despite scientific evidence supporting its need for protection3.

The Greater Sage-Grouse stands at a crossroads. The decisions made in the coming years will determine whether this iconic bird continues to grace the Sagebrush Sea or becomes a memory of the past. By extending Endangered Species Act protections and improving habitat protections, we can save the Greater Sage-Grouse from extinction and ensure a healthier ecosystem for all species that depend on it.

Join us in urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management to take immediate and effective action. Sign the petition today to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse and preserve our natural heritage for future generations.

More on this issue:

  1. Center for Biological Diversity (13 June 2024), "Federal Officials Urged to Strengthen Sage Grouse Habitat Protections."
  2. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior "Greater Sage-Grouse."
  3. American Bird Conservancy (3 May 2024), "Preventing a Greater Sage-Grouse Vanishing Act."
  4. Tom Christiansen, Audubon Rockies (14 May 2024), "A Pivotal Moment for Conservation."
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The Petition:

To the directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM),

We, the undersigned, urgently call upon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to extend Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections and enhance habitat protections for the Greater Sage-Grouse.

The Greater Sage-Grouse, a keystone species of the American West, is in peril. Its population has declined nearly 80% since 1968, primarily due to habitat loss from oil and gas development, invasive species, and climate change. The sagebrush ecosystem, vital for the survival of this bird, is rapidly disappearing. This habitat not only supports the sage-grouse but also numerous other species that depend on its health and continuity.

Current management plans have proven insufficient to halt the decline. The exclusion of the Greater Sage-Grouse from the ESA protections, due to political and economic pressures, has left it vulnerable. Without immediate and robust action, this iconic species faces extinction.

We propose the following actions:

  • Extend ESA Protections: Revoke the 2014 Congressional moratorium and grant the Greater Sage-Grouse the protection it warrants under the ESA.

  • Designate Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs): Implement Alternative 3 from the BLM's proposed management plans, which designates ACECs and provides comprehensive habitat protections.

  • Strengthen Habitat Protections: Enforce stricter regulations on industrial activities within sage-grouse habitats, including oil and gas drilling, to prevent further fragmentation and degradation.

  • Implement Science-Based Management: Adopt adaptive management strategies based on the latest scientific research to ensure effective and dynamic conservation efforts.

By taking these necessary steps, the FWS and BLM will not only save the Greater Sage-Grouse from extinction but also ensure the preservation of the sagebrush ecosystem, benefiting countless other species and maintaining the ecological balance of the region.

Protecting the Greater Sage-Grouse is a critical step towards a healthier environment and a better future for all. Your immediate action can make a significant difference.


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