By the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s most recent estimate, Oregon’s sage-grouse population has dropped 37% since 2003. As a sagebrush steppe indicator species, the grouse’s sharp decline means that all of the fish and wildlife in our sagebrush steppe are also at risk.

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined, in 2010, that sage grouse warranted Endangered Species Act protection, ONDA joined dozens of organizations and people working to avoid a listing. After years of meetings West-wide, the Bureau of Land Management’s 2015 plan outlined a strategy for improving essential sage-grouse habitat, including provisions for 13 Research Natural Areas in eastern Oregon for sage-grouse conservation and management research. This year, a Trump administration amendment blocked the agency from conducting that research — undermining their ability to gain a science-based understanding of how land management affects sagebrush habitat and deploy effective adaptive management techniques.

As Capital Press recently reported, Oregon Natural Desert Association and fellow conservation groups filed a legal challenge against that change to Oregon’s 2015 sage-grouse plan. ONDA hopes this action will allow the BLM to implement robust, science-based management — as envisioned by the stakeholders who collaboratively developed the 2015 sage-grouse plan.

While it was imperfect, all parties involved supported the 2015 plan. Unfortunately, this administration never gave that plan a chance to work and Oregon’s sage-grouse numbers are falling. By asking the courts to restore this key piece of a collaboratively-built plan, we’re hoping to give sagebrush steppe wildlife a chance to survive.

Jeremy Austin

Oregon Natural

Desert Association

Bend, Ore.

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