NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Sage Grouse Conservation: The Proven Successful Approach

September 23, 2015

The sage grouse is a large ground-dwelling bird that inhabits 165 million acres in 11 western states. To protect it, the Department of the Interior is engaged in what it describes as "the largest and most complex landscape-scale land management planning effort in U.S. history."

However, its efforts could be derailed by existing federal plans governing the use of 61.5 million acres of federal land located in this bird's habitat. In addition, communities, landowners, businesses and local governments are very worried that they will be restricted by penalties and severe controls on land and resource use.

The Department of the Interior is also considering to include this bird in the Endangered Species Act. However, the sage grouse regulations would have significant effects on revenues, taxes, earnings, employment and economic output.

There is statistical data that question the extreme measures that would be taken to protect this species:

  • The greater sage grouse currently has a minimum population of almost 425,000 and an annual population growth rate of 0.78% from 2005-2015.
  • Populations have experienced a general leveling off since the mid-1990s.
  • Different population estimates vary due to the time frame, or frames, used to evaluate the population.
  • A more accurate method to evaluate the population is to look at the three chronological trends within the past 50 years: decline, stabilization, and increase over the past ten years.

It appears the greater sage grouse is doing well and its population has stabilized. The population gradually increased over the past two decades due primarily to more favorable weather conditions and also its numbers fluctuate on 10-year cycles.

Source: Brian Seasholes, "Sage Grouse Conservation: The Proven Successful Approach," Reason Foundation, September 21, 2015.


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