Next year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife will decide whether or not to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species, and a new scorecard released by a coalition of wildlife advocacy groups says the Bureau of Land Management’s new Lander Resource Plan has failed to do enough to keep the bird off that list.
Policy Advisor Steven Holmer is with the American Bird Conservancy, one of six groups behind the new scorecard. He says a team of national scientists was tasked with setting standards for the best way to protect the grouse.
“So we basically boiled all those standards down into 32 different standards,” Holmer says. “And then used those to measure the management plan that was recently released in Wyoming for the Lander Management Area. And what we found was that in only 9 of the 32 standards did the agency follow the best available science.”
Holmer says the Lander Plan is still better than what's in place now and does a good job designating the grouse's prime habitat. He also complemented the plan for its protection of historic trails that will in some ways offer the sage grouse double protections. But he says it will not do nearly enough to protect the bird from roads, power lines and energy development.
“The science indicates that you need a four mile buffer but in the draft Lander Plan they only went with a buffer of point-six miles, a little over half a mile. And it's known that at that distance it's very likely that the grouse will abandon the habitat and not breed in those areas any longer.”
Holmer says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife will use the same 32 science standards when they determine whether or not to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species next year.