PBS Nature Featuring Greater Sage-Grouse: The Sagebrush Sea Airs May 20
Check out Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s stunning new documentary on Nature about the imperiled Greater Sage-Grouse to be airedMay 20th. Learn about this spectacularly unique species and its sagebrush habitat —one of the largest yet most vulnerable landscapes in North America. Capturing both the breathtaking sweep of the land and the intimate struggles of its most delicate inhabitants, this is framed by the spectacular rituals of a bird you truly have to see to believe: the Greater Sage-Grouse. Watch the trailer.
“The ESA listing debate is taking place largely in a vacuum of public understanding about the species and the ecosystem,” says Cornell Lab producer Marc Dantzker, “And that’s where we hope our film can make a real contribution. People who drive by on the highways and even many of the people who live within it, think this vast region that covers parts of 11 western states is empty, but it isn’t.”
The film—titled The Sagebrush Sea—aims to correct that common misperception of “The Big Empty” by training its lens on many of the birds and mammals that live hidden within the landscape—Golden Eagles, Burrowing Owls, Ferruginous Hawks, Mountain Bluebirds, pronghorn, coyotes, and more. The film is part of a larger sage-grouse story project from the Cornell Lab, which lives online at www.allaboutbirds.org/sagebrushsea. Also see a Living Bird magazine article on efforts to help the sage-grouse.
Action Alert: Legislation Threatens to Prevent Sage Grouse Conservation
The White House is threatening to veto the House National Defense Authorization Act, in part due to unrelated legislation affecting grouse conservation and the management of public lands. The administration’s statement is below and offers a good description of the threat at hand. Another bill, S. 1036, has been introduced by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) that prevents ESA protection for Greater and Gunnison Sage Grouse, and overturns new grouse conservation plans being developed by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.
Help stop these legislative attacks on Sage Grouse, and send letters to your elected officials today.
Please go to http://support.abcbirds.org/dontdelaysavegrouse
Greater Sage-Grouse and Public Land Management: The Administration strongly objects to section 2862, which would mandate a delay until 2025 in listing or deciding not to list the Greater Sage-Grouse under the Endangered Species Act and would effectively override longstanding principles of major Federal land management statues, including the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Forest Management Act. Such unprecedented delays undermine science-based decision-making, are unnecessary for military readiness, and are ill-advised for purposes of public land management. Such delays create uncertainty for landowners and businesses, and effectively suspend unprecedented collaborative conservation efforts that have been developed with extensive public input. Additional provisions would divest stewardship of Federal land from Federal agencies, requiring these lands to be managed consistent with State-approved management plans. Moreover, existing law already allows the Secretary of Defense to obtain an exemption of any action from the requirements of the Endangered Species Act for reasons of national security. (Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 1735, May 12, 2015)
ABC’s Bird of the Week: The Greater Sage-Grouse
Study: Sage grouse likely to go extinct in Powder River Basin within three decades
Sage grouse will likely go extinct in the Powder River Basin within the next three decades, according to a recent study commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Wildlife Loses, Healthy Lands Lose and Bureaucrats Declare Victory By Erik Molvar, Published in The Hill:http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/energy-environment/241241-california-and-nevada-sage-grouse-protections-disappear
Defenders’ Blog: Sage-grouse, Grazing Management and Voluntary Permit Retirement
At least 26 land uses and related effects threaten sage-grouse, none more pervasive than domestic livestock grazing. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the largest landowner in the American West, administers approximately 18,000 grazing permits and leases to graze almost 13 million animal unit months on 160 million acres of public lands, including large swaths of sage-grouse habitat. The U.S. Forest Service also permits grazing on millions of acres of sage-grouse range. More than 99 percent of remaining sagebrush steppe has been affected by livestock and approximately 30 percent has been heavily grazed. Seehttp://experts.defendersblog.org/2015/04/sage-grouse_permit_retirement/.
New Invasive Species and Sage-Grouse Report Released by WAFWA
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has released a new sage-grouse report “Invasive Plant Management and Greater Sage-grouse Conservation: A Review and Status Report with Strategic Recommendations for Improvement.” This publication is a product of the WAFWA, Wildfire and Invasive Initiative Working Group. The report is the fourth in a series of recent publications that examine and evaluate the role of fire and invasive plants in the conservation of Greater sage-grouse (GRSG). View the complete report here.
Migratory Birds Benefit from NMBCA Grants and Duck Stamp Sales
Migratory birds throughout the Western Hemisphere will benefit from $3.8 million in grants for 27 collaborative conservation projects across the Americas. The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) grants will leverage the Service’s investment with $14.6 million in additional private funds—a nearly 4-to-1 match. The projects will conserve migratory bird habitat across the Americas, stimulate critical research into declining bird populations, and strengthen international relations, raising awareness of the importance of bird conservation.
There are 386 species of neotropical migratory birds that migrate to and from the United States each year, including songbirds and shorebirds. These birds provide critical ecological functions: keeping insect and rodent populations in balance, pollinating and dispersing seeds of plants that form habitat for other wildlife, and providing early warnings of environmental contamination. Birds are enjoyed by tens of millions of Americans, and birdwatching helps to support the national economy to the tune of billions of dollars. Yet populations of many of these birds are in decline, and several species currently are considered in need of special conservation attention as a result of habitat loss, pollution, human disturbance or climate change.
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 2000 established the matching grants program to fund projects that conserve neotropical migratory birds in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. It is the only source of federal funds solely dedicated to this mission. Funds may be used to protect, research, monitor and manage bird populations and habitat, as well as to conduct law enforcement and community outreach and education. Project highlights include:
Saving Valles Centrales: Securing Grasslands Connectivity
Grasslands provide important habitat for several species of neotropical migratory birds, such as Baird’s sparrow, lark bunting and Sprague’s pipit. In the Valles Centrales area of Mexico, grasslands are being converted to croplands at a high rate. This project will prevent further grassland loss by creating three private reserves of nearly 30,000 acres dedicated to sustainable cattle ranching.
Creation of the Community Reserve of Chinatu, Chihuahua
Several neotropical migratory bird species in the Sierra Madre Occidental region of Mexico are declining due to poor forest management. This project will protect more than 100 species of birds, including the rufous hummingbird and Bell’s vireo, by creating a community-managed forest reserve, reforesting degraded areas, and conducting community outreach on sustainable forestry practices.
For more information on funded projects for 2015 and previous years, visit http://www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/Grants/NMBCA/
Duck Stamps Generating Funds for Habitat Conservation
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) has decided upon new acquisitions of National Wildlife Refuge properties through the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF), where “Duck Stamp” dollars are held. For FY 2014, stamps enabled 54,801 acres to be conserved: 11,410 fee-title acres, of which 10,301 were at National Wildlife Refuges, and 43,391 easement acres.
For this year eight new refuge projects and an $8,825,000 of expenditure were approved by the Commission. At the Felsenthal and Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuges, in Arkansas and Louisiana acquisitions will protect and restore bottomland hardwood forest habitat, mainly for wintering waterfowl, including Mallards, Northern Pintails, and Wood Ducks, but also for wading birds, Neotropical migrants, and other wildlife that depend on the involved habitats. The acquisitions are the first step toward connecting the two NWRs. Commission members were informed that if the Service didn’t acquire the properties, they would likely have been sold to a private party or be sub-divided and sold to multiple private parties.
Another project involves Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, with a price approval to acquire approximately 1,778 acres for $1,000,000. This is a real bargain, since the property is being acquired by The Conservation Fund for $4,500,000 and offered to the USFWS for $1,000,000. The acquisition will help create a corridor linking the NWR’s main unit with its well-known Bahia Grande unit, providing connectivity for various shorebird species and waterfowl. (The wintering Redhead population on the NWR is the largest single concentration of Redheads in the U.S.) The acquisition may also help in securing Aplomado Falcon habitat at Laguna Atascosa NWR.
The Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana will acquire a 383-acre tract for $726,800. This NWR is unique because it is one of the few natural areas along the Mississippi River which has never been leveed and still experiences seasonal overflows. A vestige of the past, the NWR contains one of the highest densities of old-growth bald cypress in the country. For more information see http://www.friendsofthestamp.org/
Senior Policy Advisor
American Bird Conservancy &
Director, Bird Conservation Alliance