Published since 1946
BLM Issues Updated Guidance on Managing Sagebrush Habitat
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued six new “Instruction Memoranda (IM)” on December 29, 2017 updating agency guidance on implementing greater sage-grouse and sagebrush management efforts. According to the agency, three of the memos revise IMs issued in September 2016 and two of the new memos supersede the previous guidance. The policies change decision-making for oil and gas development allowing leasing with appropriate protective measures in all areas previously designated as open, while still encouraging the prioritization of leasing and development outside of priority habitat management areas. The IMs also reinforce the importance of land health standards when evaluating BLM lands in areas with sage-grouse habitat as well as those without. Another clarifies the policy for grazing permit renewal that previously made the presence of sage-grouse habitat the primary factor in leasing decisions. The sixth IM is a new policy directing staff to use the habitat objective table in sage-grouse management plans to ensure that the best available science is used to support management decisions.
The changes to the IMs reflect input by the governors of the states with sage-grouse habitat. “The updated policies are in response to concerns raised by the states, local partners and our own field staff,” said Brian Steed, BLM’s Deputy Director for Programs and Policy. “They were developed from the ground up with the goal of improving sagebrush habitat while permitting measured economic and recreational activity.