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Toiyabe Chapter
Nevada and Eastern California
PO Box 8096
Reno, NV 89507

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Sage Grouse: Protection needed to save the species.

SAGE GROUSE have always been a state managed species. Since the l950's their numbers have been declining. State wildlife agencies have responded by underwriting research, protesting incursions into sage grouse habitat and creating state initiatives. Unfortunately, wildlife agencies are no match for livestock grazing, mining, renewable energy, utilities, wild horses, or recreational use. The Ruby pipeline, for instance, recently bulldozed and blasted through hitherto untouched sagebrush habitat, leaving in its wake a new road that will be a 600 mile-long weed corridor for invasive weeds and grasses such as cheat grass.

sagegrouse and informationToday the sagebrush ecosystem is regarded as the most endangered ecosystem in the United States. Wildfires, now more intense and frequent in part due to fire-dependent exotic grasses, have destroyed millions of acres of sagebrush rangeland in the last couple of decades. 

In March, 2010, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service determined that listing the sage grouse was “warranted but precluded” and set a 2015 deadline for BLM to ensure protection.

Conservation Plans for Sage Grouse

Toiyabe Chapter Sage Grouse Actions

The Sierra Club supports listing as endangered (under the Endangered Species Act) of the Greater Sage Grouse because all of our voluntary efforts and projects for Sage Grouse conservation in Nevada appear too little and too late to stop population declines and loss of Sage Grouse habitats.  BLM, the major land manager in Nevada, is failing to enforce Sage Grouse conservation requirements in its land use decisions. Without significant habitat protection and restoration, our Sage Grouse populations are not sustainable. We believe that we need the guidance and recovery requirements of the Endangered Species Act to save Sage Grouse and its habitat in Nevada.

Toiyabe Chapter Supports Sage Grouse protection under ESA

The Sierra Club is very concerned about the inability of the efforts of federal and state government agencies and private stakeholders to stop declining population trends as well as the continuing destruction and fragmentation of Sage Grouse habitats on both public and private lands in sagebrush country. Much effort by the Nevada Department of Wildlife and California Fish & Game Agency went into collaboratively working with all stakeholders, including the agencies' biologists, to map existing Sage Grouse habitat and develop the Nevada State Sage Grouse Conservation Plan in 2004 as well as subsequent agencies' rules and policies and funding of projects intended to benefit Sage Grouse. Unfortunately, after the US Fish & Wildlife Service decision not to list the species in 2005, agencies' funds and staffing to implement plans to benefit Sage Grouse rapidly declined, but deterioration and fragmentation of Sage Grouse habitat and downward population trends continued, unabated. In 2010, the USFWS was forced to revisit Sage Grouse status by the courts and then decided that listing is warranted, an about-face due to deteriorating population trends and sagebrush habitats. We sincerely hope that a negative finding by the USFWS in 2015 will not have a similar result on this current chapter in the agencies' efforts to recover both Sage Grouse and its sagebrush habitat on public lands.

We agree that, if we are to succeed in making the listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act unnecessary, it is critical that the agencies do not continue to manage the public lands in a business-as-usual fashion.

On January 30, 2010, our Executive Committee unanimously passed a resolution to urge the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list the Greater Sage Grouse in Nevada under the ESA because of the continuing failures to implement and enforce mostly voluntary Nevada Sage Grouse conservation plans and guidelines by state and federal agencies due to lack of commitment and funding. We further urge the USFWS to establish enforceable recovery requirements and critical habitat to ensure at the minimum the maintenance of existing numbers of Sage Grouse and its habitat as well as, hopefully, the restoration of healthy populations and sagebrush ecosystem habitat.