What’s going on with the greater sage-grouse in Nevada?

Male greater Sage-grouse displaying for a female on a springtime lek.

What is happening?
The greater sage-grouse population has been declining for the last 10 years. As of March, 2010, the greater sage-grouse was listed as a candidate for Endangered Species Act Protection. The Bi-State area of Nevada and California was listed as a level 3 priority, out of 12 priority levels, with 1 being the highest priority. At a level 3 priority, the greater sage-grouse could be potentially listed as a Threatened or Endangered Species within 3-5 years.

How will this affect my business?
Listing the greater sage-grouse as a candidate or putting it on the Threatened or Endangered list would have a major impact to private industries in Nevada, from mining to energy development. This in turn will impact the state’s economy. Continued operation of major industries requires an impact to the land. Major projects currently follow a stringent process for permitting this impact; however, listing the greater sage-grouse as a Threatened or Endangered species could make this permitting more difficult, or in some cases, impossible.

How do I know if my project location is within greater sage-grouse habitat?
The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) released a greater sage-grouse habitat categorization map which shows habitat categories 1-5 across the state of Nevada. JBR can plot project boundaries on detailed habitat categorization maps using ArcGIS to show the exact proximity of a given project location to greater sage-grouse habitat categories. See more about JBR's greater sage-grouse habitat plotting capabilities.

Why is the greater sage-grouse population declining?
There are many theories and many unknowns as to why this species is declining. We do know that the greater sage-grouse requires several sagebrush habitat types within 6 square kilometers to sustain their lifecycle activities. The continuity of the mosaic of sagebrush habitats in Nevada is declining from wildfire, energy development, urbanization, agricultural conversion, and infrastructure development. If just one of these habitat types is affected, it will greatly impact the greater sage-grouse.

What is the government doing about it?
Each Bureau of Land Management (BLM) district in Nevada is now required to rewrite their Resource Management Plans (RMPs) to incorporate protection and conservation measures for the greater sage-grouse. For the Bi-State population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs Adaptive Management in place from all the agencies by September 2013. For the greater sage-grouse population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs Adaptive Management in place by September 2015 so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can decide whether or not to list the greater sage-grouse as a Threatened or Endangered Species.

What is JBR doing to help?
JBR realized the potential impacts of the greater sage-grouse habitat decline early on and has since been developing a mitigation plan for the impacts to the greater sage-grouse habitat. Successful mitigation would allow for greater sage-grouse habitat to be impacted in one area if another area can be prepared as a fertile habitat for the greater sage-grouse. JBR has been working closely with the private industries and the government agencies to find a solution which will minimize the impact to greater sage-grouse habitat.

JBR provides a wide range of greater sage-grouse consulting services to mining and energy clients throughout Nevada including:

  • Baseline surveys for greater sage-grouse.
  • Field surveys including habitat mapping for several greater sage-grouse habitat types.
  • Lek counts and lek monitoring in accordance with NDOW protocol.
  • Transect surveys at distances specified by the BLM and/or the U.S. Forest Service.
  • Helicopter searches for greater sage-grouse leks.
  • Categorization maps showing critical greater sage-grouse habitat in relation to project boundaries per data provided by NDOW.
  • NEPA permitting for impacts to greater sage-grouse habitat.

Contact JBR:
For questions or project work related to the greater sage-grouse, please contact Kristi Schaff:

JBR Reno, Nevada
Kristi Schaff, Reno Office Supervisor/Project Manager
Email: kschaff@jbrenv.com, Phone: 775.747.5777

For media inquires, contact:
Russ Fellows, Marketing Coordinator
Email: rsfellows@jbrenv.com, Phone: 801.943.4144

For more information about the greater sage-grouse in Nevada, visit these links:
Nevada Fish & Wildlife: Greater sage-grouse Nevada
Nevada Department of Wildlife: Sage-grouse Conservation
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Greater sage-grouse
Nevada Wildlife Federation: Sage-grouse Article from Nevada Wildlife

More about Adaptive Management:
U.S. Department of the Interior: What is Adaptive Management?
Bureau of Land Management: Adaptive Management – The scientific approach to flexible natural resource management.

Update 4/4/12: Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval released an executive order establishing a Greater Sage-grouse Advisory Committee. You can find a copy of this executive order here.