Interior Collaborates with Idaho Partners to Improve Vital Habitat for Wildlife

Sage-grouse habitat project will remove more than half a million acres of encroaching juniper

Last edited 09/29/2021

Date: May 31, 2018

WASHINGTON - The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management today signed the Record of Decision for the Bruneau-Owyhee Sage-Grouse Habitat Project. This Decision authorizes the removal of encroaching western juniper on 617,000 acres in a 1.67 million-acre area of sagebrush-steppe habitat in Owyhee County. The project was developed in collaboration with the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Lands, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This vital landscape project demonstrates the Department of the Interior’s commitment to shared conservation stewardship through collaboration with our state partners,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Working together on projects like this enhances conditions on our public lands for wildlife, ranching and recreation.”

“This is great news for Idaho’s continuing efforts to maintain and improve sage-grouse habitat,” Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said. “It’s an example of the kind of on-the-ground federal, state and local collaboration that can make a real difference for the species and improve the lives and livelihoods of ranchers, recreationists and other land users in Owyhee County.”

“This project will allow conservation partners to move quickly on landscape habitat restoration projects that are proving to have a tremendous impact for mule deer, sage-grouse and other species dependent on sagebrush rangelands,” said Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO Miles Moretti. “MDF has been actively involved in a number of habitat stewardship projects in recent years that have shown by removing encroaching junipers or replanting native grasses, shrubs, and forbs we can make a difference on restoring our native western rangelands, which is beneficial for wildlife as well as other public land users.”

“Junipers are such significant invasive plants that even small amounts of them cause Sage-grouse to avoid and abandon habitat,” said Virgil Moore, Director of Idaho Fish and Game. “Juniper removal is an effective conservation practice that results in Sage-grouse reoccupancy of treated rangelands. This project on these iconic western lands of Idaho’s Owyhee County is possible because of the strong partnerships forged through collaboration over the past decade with the people who use these working landscapes and desire proper management and conservation to benefit Sage-grouse.”

“When we can work together to respond to the collective needs of species, land, and people, good things happen," said Idaho Cattle Association President Tucker Shaw. “This project is not only an important step for sage-grouse conservation, but embodies the benefits of localized collaboration to maintain working landscapes in harmony with sound stewardship of our resources.”

Juniper encroachment has been identified as a major threat to western sage-brush ecosystems. As junipers intrude into sagebrush habitat, the steppe vegetation begins to die off because it is unable to compete for water, nutrients, space, and sunlight. Juniper removal helps develop a landscape that is more resilient and promotes a diverse plant community. Over the life of this 15-year project, no juniper will be cut within designated wilderness areas or lands with wilderness characteristics and no old-growth trees will be removed.

Juniper removal projects build on proactive land management policies and practices to conserve the region's remaining sagebrush habitat, which supports abundant wildlife, including sage-grouse, mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and golden eagles, as well as significant economic activity, including ranching and recreation.

The BLM issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this project on Feb. 9, 2018. The Final EIS, Record of Decision and other relevant documents are available on the BLM ePlanning website at Hard copies of these documents are also available for review at the BLM-Idaho Boise District Office, 3948 Development Ave., Boise, ID, 83705, during regular business hours, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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