Federal

Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation

Short Summary

In 2015, the Obama administration implemented a sage grouse conservation plan in 2015 that banned or limited oil and gas drilling on 10.7 million acres where the bird lives.

The Trump administration is now opening nine million of those acres to drilling and mining by stripping away protections for the sage grouse. [Coral Davenport, “Trump Drilling Plan Threatens 9 Million Acres of Sage Grouse Habitat,” New York Times, 12/06/18]

General Description

The sage grouse, known for its distinctive mating dance, has seen its numbers sharply decline in recent decades. It has been a candidate for endangered-species protection in the past, however, the bird’s habitat is found in eleven mineral and oil-rich Western states. In 2015, the Obama administration implemented a sage grouse conservation plan in 2015 that banned or limited oil and gas drilling on 10.7 million acres where the bird lives.

The Trump administration is now opening nine million of those acres to drilling and mining by stripping away protections for the sage grouse. [Coral Davenport, “Trump Drilling Plan Threatens 9 Million Acres of Sage Grouse Habitat,” New York Times, 12/06/18]

Detailed Policy Summary 

  • “Known for its distinctive mating dance, the land-dwelling grouse has seen its numbers sharply decline in recent decades.”
  • The Obama administration plan restricted drilling during mating season in places where drilling was permitted in the habitat, limited construction of drilling infrastructure in habitat areas, and required companies that drill in these areas to pay into a fund to preserve and protect other habitat areas, in addition to outright banning drilling in certain sage grouse habitat areas. The new Trump administration proposal would limit the highly protected area to 1.8 million acres and eliminate the requirement that companies pay into the habitat preservation fund.
  • “There would still be buffer zones banning the destruction of sage grouse habitat near nests, and drilling and mining companies would have to apply for waivers to destroy habitat.”
  • “States could opt to keep the Obama-era protections in place, and could also require companies to pay into similar state-level funds.” Montana and Oregon are expected to keep them in place but Idaho and Utah are not. The new sage grouse plan would be implemented by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

[Coral Davenport, “Trump Drilling Plan Threatens 9 Million Acres of Sage Grouse Habitat,” New York Times, 12/06/18]

Current Status

On December 6 2018, the Trump administration published its proposal to drastically roll back habitat protections for the sage grouse — opening up nine million acres of public land to drilling, mining, and other industrial development, and potentially putting the bird on a path toward extinction.


[Coral Davenport, “Trump Drilling Plan Threatens 9 Million Acres of Sage Grouse Habitat,” New York Times, 12/06/18]

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