More gas, less grouse


By Courtney Lowery, guest blogger, 10-27-09

A new study shows that sage grouse, up for Endangered Species listing in February, will face even bigger population declines in the Mountain West if energy development progresses as Bureau of Land Management expects it to.

The three year study, published earlier this month in the peer-reviewed PLoS One science journal as well as here on, warns that energy development plans on BLM land in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana and North and South Dakota could lead to a 7-19 percent loss of population for the bird.

The study’s authors, which include The Nature Conservancy in Lander, Wyoming, the National Audubon Society in Laramie, Wyoming and the University of Montana’s Wildlife Biology Program are clear about the goal of the research: To help decision makers craft a better oil and gas development pattern that would shift exploration to less sensitive grouse habitat. If done right, the authors say, oil and gas development could keep the sage grouse safe and off the ESA list.

One of the co-authors, David Naugle, a wildlife landscape ecologist at the University of Montana, tells the New York Times: “The answer to energy development in the West is not ‘no,’ but rather ‘where.’ I think our nation’s energy independence is paramount. Thus, the way we designed this study was to be helpful.”

Scott Streater’s piece in the Times’ Greenwire blog does a good job of summing up the report here. And, you can read the full report here.