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Conservation group calls for stronger sage grouse protections in Powder River Basin
“This is a key sage grouse population because it connects outlyin populations in the Dakotas, Montana, and ultimately Canada to the main sage grouse strongholds in the Red Desert and southwestern Wyoming,” said Erik Molvar, Wildlife Biologist with WildEarth Guardians. “Scientific studies show that this population has been so heavily impacted by oil and coalbed methane drilling that it may be one West Nile virus outbreak away from extinction. The BLM needs to get sage grouse protection right in the Powder River Basin, and if it doesn’t the odds of an Endangered Species listing rise dramatically.”
Guardians’ comments point out the need for stronger conservation measures inside Core Areas as well as the need to expand Core Areas in the Powder River Basin, where only 15% of the sage grouse nesting habitat and 29% of the sage grouse population fall within Core Area boundaries, according to the BLM’s Draft EIS.
“Even though the BLM has recognized that drilling within two miles of sage grouse leks reduces the odds of sage grouse breeding at the lek from 87% to 5%, drilling would be allowed as close as 0.6 miles from lek sites in the agency’s Preferred Alternative,” added Molvar. “Federal agencies need to get serious about protecting sage grouse, and in the Powder River Basin that means stronger protections in Core Areas and protecting the prime habitats at the center of the Basin, not just those areas at the periphery that the oil and gas industry doesn’t want to drill.”
Guardians’ full comments on the Buffalo plan revision are available upon request.