Sage Grouse Conservation Partnership
June-September 2018 News and Updates (Sent September 17, 2018)
BLM natural resource specialist Brad Jessop, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and BLM West Desert district manager Kevin Oliver tour a tract of rehabilitated grasses and sage brush in greater sage grouse habitat in Tooele County, Utah, on Aug. 5, 2015.
Federal Updates
Mitigation Policy IM Released
July 24, 2018 BLM released Instruction Memorandum No. 2018-093, which states that while the BLM, under limited circumstances, will consider voluntary proposals for compensatory mitigation to address public land development impacts, the agency cannot mandate and will not require compensatory mitigation nor will it accept any monetary payment to mitigate the impacts of a proposed action. The IM re-iterates that, pursuant to FLPMA Section 302(d), the BLM must refrain from authorizing any activity that causes unnecessary or undue degradation in all instances.

DEIS Process: Amendments to BLM’s 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse Plans
August 2, 2018 the 90-day comment period is now closed for the 2018 Greater Sage-Grouse Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which includes review of and proposed amendments to the BLM’s sage-grouse based 2015 Resource Management Plan Amendments (RMPAs) across the West.  In Oregon, the BLM held public meetings in Ontario and Lakeview. The draft plan amendment and DEIS in Oregon is narrowly focused. Oregon BLM proposes to make livestock grazing available in 13 key research natural areas (RNAs), which would make an additional 21,959 acres available to livestock grazing in the plan area. The 2015 RMPA for Oregon previously directed that livestock grazing would be unavailable in all or portions of these 13 key RNAs. The Oregon draft plan amendment and DEIS can be obtained via a search of the BLM ePlanning website or from this link. The draft plan amendments / DEIS’s for the other six western states looking to amend to their 2015 RMPAs are also available at the national BLM ePlanning website (national link).


Farm Bill Codifies “Working Lands For Wildlife” Program
The U.S. Senate advanced a farm bill that includes new language to formally recognize and codify the Working Lands for Wildlife program to help farmers and ranchers restore habitat for at-risk wildlife, including sage-grouse. The U.S House passed its version of the bill on June 21, 2018 and the Senate passed its version a week later.  Negotiations are now in a conference committee to reconcile differences in the bills.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Angela Sitz scans the landscape for sage grouse. Photo credit: Sarah Levy/USFWS U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Angela Sitz looks for sage-grouse. Photo credit: Sarah Levy/USFWS
Mitigation Policy Withdrawal
Effective July 30, 2018, USFWS withdrew two policies (the Service-wide mitigation policy published Nov. 21, 2016 and its ESA Compensatory Mitigation Policy) which guide Service recommendations on mitigating the adverse impacts of land and water developments on fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats. The Service will now revert to its 1981 Mitigation Policy, the 2003 Conservation Banking Guidance, and the 2008 Recovery Crediting Policy to guide its role in mitigation.  Full detail of the policy withdrawal, including a summary of pulic comment and responses, posted to the federal register: (
Of note, the Policy Regarding Voluntary Prelisting Conservation (i.e. the prelisting mitigation policy) is still intact. It was finalized as a USFWS Manual Chapter in May 2018 and can be found here (
Oregon Leks in Featured Story
Back in Time to a Sage-Grouse Lek tumblr story has been released, detailing a visit to lek sites on a working cattle ranch, led by Oregon’s Angela Sitz.
Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming
The Forest Service (Regions 1, 2, 4) issued a Notice of Intent in November, 2017 to amend Forest Plans in these Regions by incorporating new information to improve the clarity, efficiency, and implementation of greater sage-grouse plans, including better alignment with the BLM and state plans, in order to benefit greater sage-grouse conservation on the landscape scale. The Forest Service plans to complete one multi-Region Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the effects of the Forest Plan amendments, most likely leading to separate Record Of Decisions (ROD) for each state. A draft EIS is expected to be released on September 21, 2018 followed by a 90 day comment period. A final EIS and draft RODs are expected to be completed in early February, 2019 which will begin a 60 day objection period. The signing of the RODs approving the Forest Plan amendments will follow the objection period and could occur between April-July 2019, depending on the number and complexity of any objections received.
The Forest Service is still dedicated to greater sage-grouse conservation. Proposed changes are intended to be overall neutral to positive for greater sage-grouse and are designed to clarify text, including aligning forest plan components with the Forest Service’s 2012 planning rule, and to improve efficiency and interagency coordination in the Forest Plans at a landscape scale.


Region 6 (Oregon) is not included in the Forest Service Notice of Intent, because of limited sage-grouse habitat in Region 6.  Region 6’s conservation commitment for the National Forests with sage-grouse habitat was identified in a 2015 Regional Forester memorandum of direction, that provides region-wide sage-grouse conservation guidance. The Regional Forester’s direction is primarily consistent with the Forest Service’s 2015 Great Basin sage-grouse amendment.
The 2018 final Malheur and Wallowa-Whitman Forest Plans include this regional direction as well as additional direction from the Oregon Sage-grouse Action Plan and Oregon-BLM Land Use Plan. The Malheur and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s sage-grouse plan components underwent ODFW and Oregon-BLM review for consistency with the State of Oregon’s sage-grouse action plan and Oregon-BLM’s sage-grouse plan amendment.
The 60 day objection period for Malheur and Wallowa-Whitman Forest Plan revisions ended August 28, 2018. Currently, the Washington Office is working with the Region to identify eligible objections. Pending any eligible objections and a possible objection resolution phase, final Record of Decisions for the Malheur and Wallowa-Whitman Forest Plans are expected in early 2019.  The Forest Service continues to keep a watchful eye on any change to Oregon-BLM and national Forest Service direction to see what changes this may bring to our regional sage-grouse conservation direction.
State Updates
State Action Report
The State Action Report associated with Oregon’s Sage-Grouse Action Plan and Executive Order 15-18 has been updated to detail state-funded implementation activities from 2016-June 2018. Thanks to staff from ODFW, DLCD, ODF, DSL, ODOT, OWEB, ODOE as well as local implementation partners for all of your efforts and for helping document the range and scale of conservation efforts in Oregon. The State Action Report will be shared with the Governor’s Office and legislature to document progress to date as well as support the case for ongoing Action Plan investments. Check the Oregon Explorer website for the final draft to be released September 24, 2018.  

The 2018 Population Estimate has been completed. ODFW staff again met the statewide objective of surveying >50% of occupied or pending lek complexes in 2018 (and increased its average number of counts per surveyed lek complex). Once again, there has been a decline in sage-grouse population numbers at the statewide level.  The population has declined below 2015 levels, although it remains above 2014 levels. This negative trend was fairly consistent across BLM districts in Oregon this year as well. The comprehensive population report will be released this month, accessible at the ODFW sage-grouse page, and to contact Lee Foster with questions.

On August 7, 2018 ODFW announced a sage-grouse controlled hunt deadline. The season runs September 8-16th and maintains a harvest of less than five percent of the estimated population. More information about game bird seasons in Oregon:
Partners in the Sage
Multimedia Communications, Reports and Research
  • Partners in the Sage is an interactive series of story maps co-produced by BLM and Intermountain West Joint Venture, which features a broad range of partnerships and their success stories implementing large-scale sage-grouse conservation to the benefit of local landowners in rural communities across the West.
  • The State of the Birds 2017 report documents the many benefits that the U.S. Farm Bill has resulted in for birds, landowners, and rural communities.
  • USDA and USFS partnered to release a new study, The genetic network of greater sage-grouse: range-wide identification of keystone hubs of connectivity, which provides tools for decision-makers to use in informing which areas of habitat are most critical to conserve, not just for the bird, but for other species as well.
  • Colorado Public Radio has released recordings titled “The Sounds of Sage-Grouse”, the romantic crooners of the prairie.
  • Impacts of Altered Precipitation on Sagebrush Depends on Timing -- this DOI study shows how variability in both the amount and timing of precipitation affect the structure and physiology of shrubs in sagebrush systems. Idaho State University and USGS scientists quantified changes in big sagebrush shrubs following 20 years of experimental manipulations in the amount and seasonal timing of precipitation.
  • Low Tech Stream Restoration techniques were featured in the latest Sage Grouse Initiative newsletter and an interview with Joe Wheaton, Utah State University, Department of Watershed Science.
RSVP for the Annual SageCon Summit October 25-26, 2018 in Ontario, OR
Join us for the SageCon Summit, the 3rd annual gathering of partners from across the Oregon range to share stories from the field, compare cutting-edge research and reconfirm our strategies and commitments to conserve this iconic species.
The Summit will start 1:00 p.m. Thursday October 25th and end by 3:00 p.m. Friday October 26th. Detailed agenda to follow.
Sage-Grouse Conservation Partnership Resources 
For the Oregon Explorer landing page with links to the State Action Plan, technical tools, background reports, meeting calendar and more:
For meeting agendas, presentations, summaries and related materials; please visit the SageCon Google Drive Folder
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