Secretarial order announced today triggers 60-day review of current conservation efforts
WASHINGTON – Following the announcement this afternoon by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of a secretarial order outlining new federal strategies for sage grouse conservation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Conservation Director John Gale issued the following response:
“Our sagebrush steppe is a resource of incalculable value – an ecosystem that, with its robust fish and wildlife populations, diverse recreational offerings and public lands hunting and fishing opportunities, anchors the economies of states and communities across the West,” said Gale. “Sportsmen have an enormous stake in sustaining the lands and waters relied upon not just by the sage grouse but by hundreds of species of fish and wildlife. We appreciate the administration’s interest in sustaining the future of these important landscapes and our outdoors way of life.
“Collaborative efforts by the federal government, Western states, landowners, ranchers, sportsmen and a range of other stakeholders have allowed us to reach a point where sage grouse populations can recover,” Gale continued. “The review of these strategies launched today by Secretary Zinke should in no way slow or alter their implementation. We must continue working to make sage grouse habitat as healthy and resilient as possible.”
Increased flexibility and more latitude to individual states were elements of the new federal approach highlighted by Secretary Zinke in releasing the order, which launches a 60-day review period, at the conclusion of which the federal sage grouse team will recommend next steps. The secretary stated that implementation of the plans will continue during the review process.
“We have some concerns about the secretary’s reference to managing for population targets and supplementing population numbers through captive breeding,” stated Gale. “The best available science compels us to focus on managing for healthy sage steppe ecosystems. Doing so can ensure that enhanced habitat conditions facilitate the recovery of greater sage grouse and support robust wildlife populations of other species dependent on sagebrush country. Population numbers historically fluctuate with a variety of changing conditions; the best thing we can do for the bird is to conserve intact habitat.”
The 165 million acres of sagebrush steppe occupied by the grouse provide habitat for more than 350 species of fish and wildlife, including big-game species such as mule deer, pronghorn and elk. Declines in historic sage grouse populations and habitat led to the bird’s consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act. In late 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that an ESA listing for the grouse was “not warranted” at that time. The conservation plans currently in place were foundational to the USFWS decision.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsmen’s voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.
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