Greater sage-grouse have experienced range-wide population declines, and many monitored populations have declined, on average 2% per year since 1965. Decline in greater sage-grouse populations has been attributed to degradation of sagebrush habitats from disturbance factors, including agricultural conversion, invasions of exotic plants leading to increased fire frequencies, and, more recently, energy exploration and development. Greater sage-grouse was proposed to be listed as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, and in 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) found that the proposed listing was warranted but precluded by higher priority listing actions. The USFWS is required to issue its proposed listing decision in September 2015. The impending listing decision of greater sagegrouse has prompted an inter-state, inter-agency planning effort by federal agencies and states within the greater sage-grouse range. Each state mapped key greater sage-grouse habitats and the USFWS used these as the basis for identifying Priority Areas for Conservation (PACs). Loss of habitat as a result of further infrastructure development within the PACs, among other factors, would reduce long-term viability of sage-grouse populations.
The objectives of this study are twofold:
1. to evaluate the overlap between the PACs and existing leases and rights-of-way (ROWs) for coal, oil and gas, solar and wind energy development on federal lands and minerals; and
2. to analyze the development potential for oil and gas, solar, and wind energy on federal lands and minerals within the PACs and compare that to the development potential for lands outside of the PACs.
We restricted the analysis to seven states that include 92% of the PACs: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. We further restricted the analysis to federal lands and minerals that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service (FS). We acquired energy development leases and ROWs from the BLM’s LR2000 and energy development potential from various sources, and then used this information to calculate the acreages and percentages included in this study.