Greater sage-grouse get some love in Oregon

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Greater sage-grouse need all the help they can get.

Voluntary conservation plan aimed at protecting and restoring sagebrush habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — Eastern Oregon’s greater sage-grouse may catch a break under a far-reaching voluntary conservation deal that could cover up to 2.3 million acres.

Under the agreement, landowners in all eight Eastern and Central Oregon counties with greater sage-grouse habitat can enroll their property in a voluntary conservation program, receiving assurances that they will not face additional regulatory requirements if the bird is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Conservation bank eyed as solution to sage-grouse woes

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

235,000-acre ranch to be managed for wildlife conservation; energy companies can buy conservation credits

Staff Report

FRISCO — Biologists, politicians and land-use planners enmeshed in the thorny issue of greater sage-grouse conservation hope that a new conservation bank in Wyoming can help save the dwindling birds without crimping energy development and ranching.

The country’s first-ever sage grouse conservation bank will manage a vast expanse of central Wyoming for sage-grouse, mule deer and other wildlife as a hedge against impacts to greater sage-grouse in energy development zones.

A conservation bank is a site or suite of sites established under an agreement with the Service to protect, and where feasible, improve habitat for a species. Similar banks have long been used to conserve important wetlands. Entities pursuing development that require mitigation can purchase “credits” generated by perpetual conservation easements and conservation projects to offset impacts occurring elsewhere. Continue reading

Proposed new oil and gas leases in Wyoming cut into the heart of important greater sage-grouse habitat

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Sage grouse don’t much like these drilling rigs.

Wyoming greater sage-grouse populations down 60 percent in last few years

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say proposed new oil and gas leases on 89,000 acres in northwestern Wyoming would devastate greater sage-grouse in the region by permitting industrial operations in some of the birds’ most important nesting and rearing habitat.

In a comment letter to the federal government, the  Center for Biological Diversity wrote that, even sage grouse have declined 60 percent over six years in Wyoming, the plan repeatedly ignores federal scientists’ recommendations for protecting these prairie birds from fossil fuel development. Continue reading

Study shows how mitigation boosts sage-grouse nesting

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Adaptive management and good mitigation can help greater sage-grouse survive the fracking tsunami. Photo via USGS.

Scientists tout adaptive management approach to sage-grouse conservation

Staff Report

FRISCO — When it comes to greater sage-grouse nesting areas, no disturbance is best, but carefully planned mitigation measures can help boost nest survival.

Minimizing disturbance to sagebrush is important, and the single biggest factor found to boost nest survival is locating wastewater treatment facilities away from drilling sites, scientists said last week, releasing results of a multi-year study in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Continue reading

Environment: Cows versus greater sage-grouse?

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Greater sage-grouse need tall grass for nesting. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Study shows livestock grazing a key factor in greater sage-grouse decline

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by sage grouse scientists confirms that the height of grass cover in nesting habitat is a key factor in determining greater sage grouse nest success.

The findings suggest that better grazing management is needed to protect the threatened birds. Cattle eat native vegetation that sage grouse require for hiding their nests from predators. Continue reading

Environment: Defense bill riders may undermine greater sage-grouse conservation efforts

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More political wrangling over greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USGS.

Ranching loopholes proposed

Staff Report

FRISCO — In the West, many eyes are on a defense spending bill pending in Congress, which may include amendments that would exempt ranchers from regulations aimed at protecting greater sage-grouse and potentially strip agencies of funding for sage grouse conservation.

With a little lobbying, the western livestock industry managed to attached the Grazing Improvement Act” into the bill (§3023). Continue reading

Greater sage-grouse need more buffer zones

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Greater sage-grouse need buffer zones to reduce impacts from human activities. Photo via USGS.

New USGS report details conservation needs of dwindling western birds

Staff Report

FRISCO — It may seem like there are a lot of wide open spaces remaining in the interior West, but when you add up impacts from roads, highways and pipelines; oil, gas, wind and solar energy development; tall structures such as electrical, communication and meteorological towers, it’s just too much for sage grouse.

The birds — at the heart of a classic endangered species political battle, need quiet areas to breed and fledge their chicks. In most cases, they seem to need at least a three-mile buffer from the most impactful activities, the U.S. Geological Survey concluded in a new report. Continue reading

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