BLM proposes conservation plans for Gunnison sage grouse

By Scott Streater | 07/03/2024 01:47 PM EDT

Proposed land-use restrictions across 2.1 million acres in Colorado and Utah include 1-mile buffers around all grouse breeding grounds.

Three Gunnison sage grouse walking on a snowy hill.

Gunnison sage grouse. Larry Lamsa/Colorado Ecological Services Field Office/Fish and Wildlife Service

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a major new plan to protect the imperiled Gunnison sage grouse that would set buffers around sensitive habitat with a goal of limiting development activities.

Detailed in a multivolume final environmental impact statement unveiled Wednesday, the BLM plan “focuses conservation measures on occupied and unoccupied habitat” across 2.1 million areas in Colorado and Utah. The Gunnison grouse is found only in southwest Colorado and southeast Utah.

The proposed land-use restrictions include establishing 1-mile buffers around all Gunnison sage grouse breeding grounds, called leks, even if they are “inactive, historic, unknown, occupied, and unoccupied.” The buffers would be managed “with the objective of no increase in net surface disturbance,” with an overarching goal “to increase available habitat for all Gunnison sage grouse populations,” according to a Federal Register notice.


The proposal would designate three new “areas of critical environmental concern,” or ACECs, covering 41,960 acres of BLM-managed lands that would be mostly designed to protect habitat for the Gunnison grouse. And it would keep in place four existing ACECs totaling 57,860 acres, with updated management plans to protect the ground-dwelling birds and their habitat.