Sage-Grouse Habitat Protection


Sage-grouse is an iconic Western bird at the brink of extinction. Throughout the past century, sage-grouse numbers have dwindled severely due to habitat loss, invasive species, energy development, and wildfires. In Nevada, there are more than 23 million acres of important sage-grouse habitat on federal public lands, about 63% of the total habitat occupied by the species in the state.

In 2011, Governor Sandoval commissioned a team to assemble plans for sage-grouse protection. In September 2015, after a thorough stakeholder-driven process and years of negotiations between conservation and industry groups, the BLM and U.S. Forest Service issued 98 new and revised plans for federal lands in the West intended to buttress the sage-grouse population. The plans balanced grazing, energy development, and land use management with conservation of key habitat. Nevada joined Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming in supporting the plans, which helped evade a listing under the Endangered Species Act for the sage-grouse.

Key Facts

  • Outdoor recreation in sagebrush lands where sage-grouse thrive generates $1 billion in economic output each year, including $119.2 million in Nevada.
  • Federal sage-grouse plans added protection to another 350 species that occupy sagebrush habitats, including elk, mule deer, and pronghorn.
  • If key habitat is not protected, sage-grouse could end up on the Endangered Species list, meaning further restrictions would be placed on public lands throughout Nevada.
  • There is very little opportunity for extractive development in Nevada’s public lands, as nearly 99% of public lands set aside for conserving sage-grouse have low to no oil and gas potential.


On May 3, 2018, the BLM released a set of recommendations that significantly water down the original sage-grouse plans, granting more exceptions from protection and removing special habitat designation that limited mining and geothermal development. Senator Heller praised the BLM’s decision. More changes are expected, as President Trump has ordered the BLM to find more sage-grouse land to open up for gas and oil leasing.

Policy Recommendations

Call on the BLM to maintain the sage-grouse plans as they were drafted in 2015 to avoid endangering a unique Western species and further limiting access to Nevada’s public lands, and ask Governor Sandoval to be a more forceful voice in working with the BLM to maintain the plans as he commissioned them through the sage-grouse task force.

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