Biden eyes protections for sage grouse

Here are 11 stats on why that matters.

 

A sage grouse male at a lek, an area where grouse congregate in the spring to court mates, in eastern Montana.
Donald M. Jones/Minden Pictures

Last week, the Biden administration announced that it was considering restoring protections for the imperiled sage grouse. The portly bird, which is about the size of a chicken, is an indicator species for the health of the sagebrush steppe — an equally threatened ecosystem that has been fragmented across the Western United States and Canada. And that puts the bird in an unfortunate position: It lives on public land that is highly coveted by the oil and gas industry.  

During the Trump administration, when former oil and gas lobbyist David Bernhardt was appointed Secretary of Interior, millions of acres of sage grouse protections were severely cut—a move that has faced challenges in federal court. But other things besides energy development threaten the sagebrush ecosystem, including increasing urbanization and the encroachment of non-native grasses, which more easily spread wildfire. 

Updated protections could undo the rollbacks and begin a new process for preserving critical habitat, says Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities. “If we don't do something, the impact is not just on the sage grouse, it is on other wildlife species and the landscape of the West,” she said. “It is critical that the Biden administration does this.”

Below, a few numbers explain why the Biden administration is considering whether to revamp protections: 

11
The number of U.S. states where sage grouse populations can be found. All of them are in the West.

9
The number of times since 1999 that conservationists have filed petitions to legally protect sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided the bird did not need listing due to an “unprecedented level” of conservation effort.  

55
Percentage of historical sagebrush habitat left. 

350
Estimated number of plant and animal species that live in the sagebrush ecosystem. 

80
Percentage of rangewide decline of the sage grouse since 1965.

20.4
Percentage of all federal oil and gas leases overlapping sage grouse habitat and owned by fossil fuel companies with ties to former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, according to the Center for Western Priorities. 

2,014,651
Number of acres these leases comprise.  

19
The number of policy actions the Interior Department has moved forward with that were supported or requested by Bernhardt’s former clients. 

77
The percentage of Westerners that think loss of habitat for fish and wildlife is a serious problem in their state, according to a Colorado College poll.

67
The percentage of Westerners who support restoring limits on industrial activities that threaten wildlife on public land, according to the same poll.  

54
Percentage of Wyoming residents who agree. 

Theo Whitcomb is an editorial intern at High Country News. We welcome reader letters. Email him at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor. See our letters to the editor policy.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CROWN OF THE CONTINENT COMMUNITY CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY is seeking a Community Conservation Specialist, for the Crown of the Continent DEPARTMENT: Conservation CLASSIFICATION: Grade 6 Specialist/Representative (Low of $54K) REPORTS...
  • ASSISTANT FARM DIRECTOR
    About The Organization Building community through fresh vegetables is at the heart of the Sisters-based non-profit, Seed to Table Oregon. Based on a four-acre diversified...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • DYNAMIC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    VARD is seeking an Executive Director to lead a small legal & planning staff dedicated to the health and sustainability of Teton Valley Idaho and...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
    Solar Energy International (SEI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit education organization with a mission to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower...
  • TRAINING MANAGER
    This is a full-time position based out of our Paonia office. This position is responsible for organizing all of Solar Energy International's renewable energy trainings....
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!