Interior Works with Partners to Improve 600,000 Acres of Sage-Grouse Habitat in Southwest Idaho

Excellent example of collaboration between federal and local governments to protect and improve working landscapes

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON – In an effort to improve the habitat for Greater Sage-Grouse in the West, the U.S. Department of the Interior today issued a Record of Decision for the treatment of 617,000 acres of land in Owyhee County, Idaho. The decision is supported by the Bruneau-Owyhee Sage-Grouse Habitat (BOSH) Project Final Environmental Impact Statement, which analyzes the effects of removing encroaching Western juniper on approximately 617,000 acres of public land within a 1.67 million-acre area of sagebrush-steppe habitat in Owyhee County.

“This project is another example of this Administration’s commitment to impactful conservation that will endure for generations,” said Acting U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “It demonstrates the success that can be achieved when the Department of the Interior works in collaboration with state partners to realize shared conservation objectives on behalf of the American people.”

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management developed the BOSH project in collaboration with the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Lands, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

BOSH is consistent with other national-level sage-grouse habitat management decisions, including pending decisions on six Greater Sage-Grouse EISs and land use plan amendments in seven states, including Idaho. Those plans align BLM’s land management decisions with those of each state to improve coordination and avoid listing the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

“The BOSH project aligns with Idaho's goals by focusing on areas with the highest restoration potential,” said Joshua Uriarte, Terrestrial Species Program Manager and Policy Adviser for the Idaho Governor's Office of Species Conservation. “Prioritizing the removal of conifers in the BOSH area will help ensure the project does not stop at state and private boundaries. The BOSH project is the missing piece of the puzzle and we're glad to see this Record of Decision signed.”

“The input of our partners and the public has been very influential in how this project has evolved,” said BLM Acting Idaho State Director Peter Ditton. “BOSH is a great example of the BLM working with our neighbors and state and federal partners to improve and maintain working landscapes and sagebrush-steppe habitat.”

Western juniper is native to southwest Idaho, but its occurrence is normally scattered. In recent decades, juniper has begun to spread and compete with sage-steppe vegetation for water, nutrients, space, and sunlight, while also altering the natural wildfire cycle. Wildfire is a primary threat to sage-grouse habitat. Under today’s decision, the BLM will cut selected juniper trees encroaching into the sagebrush and grasslands, focusing on areas around sage-grouse leks and the corridors between them.

Juniper treatment will build on proactive management policies and earlier actions to conserve remaining sagebrush habitat in southwestern Idaho that supports significant economic activity--such as ranching and recreation, and abundant wildlife including mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and golden eagles, as well as Greater Sage-Grouse. Treatments on BLM-managed lands will be integrated with similar work on State and private lands in and adjacent to the area addressed in the Record of Decision, further reflecting shared conservation stewardship at the landscape level.

Enlarging the circle of stewardship and multiple use, downed juniper trees and removed limbs will be made available as firewood. Cutting and limbing will limit the height of branches standing above ground level to eliminate potential perches for birds that prey on sage-grouse.


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