In a video launched on the Department of Interior website Tuesday morning, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell announced that due to “an unprecedented effort” of conservation by multiple groups across 11 western states, “these collective efforts add up to a bright future for the sage grouse.”

Cooper david
Managing Editor / Progressive Cattle

The decision was years in the making through extensive federal and ecological study, and was highly anticipated across the West. Environmental groups long warned that the bird’s health was a barometer for the entire health of the Western sage ecosystem.

“This is not only good news for the greater sage-grouse, but for westerners who want to honor their proud wildlife and outdoor heritage and pass it on to future generations,” Jewell explained.

The announcement was applauded by several land use industries, including those in ranching and agriculture. A listing for the sage grouse under the ESA would have required greater restrictions for grazing not just on public lands, but possibly private lands as well.

Jewell made the public announcement Tuesday in a press conference at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Commerce City, alongside USFWS Director Dan Ashe; Tom Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forest Service; Jason Weller, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service; Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze; as well as the governors of Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Nevada.


The Department of the Interior said threats to the sage grouse have built steadily over the past century and have grown more aggressive in the past few decades. Longer and hotter wildfire seasons have wiped out the forb habitat of the sage grouse, and invasive species have pushed out native vegetation. Urban encroachment into sage grouse habitat has also contributed to the deteriorating health of the bird.

But Jewell lauded the wide collaboration that has brought several interested parties to the table to restore bird numbers.

“Governments at every level, ranchers, industries, firefighters, scientists, sportsmen and women, and the conservation community came together to reduce threats to the bird and incentivize conservation of the sagebrush ecosystem,” she said.

“This has been an extraordinary effort on a scale we’ve never seen before.”

Among the groups applauding the decision was the American Bird Conservancy, the Western Values Project, Environmental Defense Fund and Idaho Wildlife Federation, and sportsmen and hunting groups.

For grazing ranchers, the management plans used in the collaborative efforts over the past few years did not close any areas to grazing – but increased monitoring efforts for rangeland and applied flexible policy to graze in the right conditions.  end mark

See the Department of Interior video here.

PHOTO: Photo by Thinkstock.