The Grunt Work of Sage Grouse Conservation
Posted on August 18, 2016
Sage-Grouse are declining because of numerous impacts coming from many different directions (aka ‘death by a thousand cuts’): a new road here, an oil & gas well there, a wind farm here, a new house there, a noxious weed infestation over there, and so on. These large birds thrive in big, wild sagebrush-dominated landscapes, so each time development intrudes, their world—their habitat—shrinks.
Montana Audubon has been thinking about sage-grouse a lot recently. One of our roles in sage-grouse conservation is to provide input to various government agencies to help protect habitat. In the last month or so, we’ve commented on:
- A 560-acre proposed lease for oil and gas in Rosebud County within a Sage-Grouse Core Area (areas of highest conservation value for sage-grouse). The lease is proposed on state ‘school trust land’ (state lands where leases support public schools; Montana has about 5.2 million acres of school trust lands).
- Stipulations attached to easements protecting almost 36,000 acres of sagebrush habitat within Sage-Grouse Core Areas within Beaverhead, Phillips, Valley, Golden Valley, Petroleum, and Fergus Counties.
- A 450-acre proposed lease lasting up to 101 years for a large 70 Megawatt solar project in Sage-Grouse General Habitat in Yellowstone County. The lease is proposed on state school trust land. Sage-Grouse General Habitat provide habitat for sage-grouse in Montana but are not considered Core Areas.
We’re also in the midst of preparing comments on:
- 1,888-acres of land proposed for oil and gas development in Valley County within Sage-Grouse Core and Connectivity Areas. Connectivity Areas are areas that provide important linkages among populations of sage-grouse, particularly between Core Areas or priority populations.
- A petition to list Japanese brome, which is similar to cheatgrass but more invasive in Montana sagebrush habitats, as a weed in Montana. This petition is due in late September to the Montana Dept. of Agriculture.
Our goal is to improve sage-grouse conservation. Our methods include a variety of work that protects a little bit here, and a little bit there…