A federal judge on February 11, 2021 overturned a Trump administration decision to strip protections from 10 million acres, mostly in Nevada and Idaho, to allow mining in vital habitat for greater sage grouse, the latest in a series of court victories for sage grouse conservation. U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill said the Bureau of Land Management failed to provide a “reasoned explanation” for canceling its own earlier proposal to protect the highest-priority sagebrush habitats from hardrock mining.
Greater sage grouse once occupied hundreds of millions of acres across the West, but their populations have plummeted as oil and gas extraction, livestock grazing, roads and power lines have destroyed and fragmented their native habitats. Protecting the grouse and its habitat benefits hundreds of other species that depend on the Sagebrush Sea ecosystem. That includes pronghorn, elk, mule deer, golden eagles, native trout, and migratory and resident birds. The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for managing about half of the nation’s remaining sage-grouse habitat.
“Greater sage grouse are one of many species across the American West whose very existence is in jeopardy, which made the Trump administration’s decision to put the interests of industry over the protection of this iconic species even more reckless,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “We are hopeful that the new Biden-Harris administration will take the biodiversity crisis seriously and see this decision as a step toward getting greater sage grouse the protection they need in order to thrive.”