Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative

Wyoming Takes the Lead in Sage-Grouse Conservation

Governor Mark Gordon’s revised Executive Order maintains a balanced approach to sage-grouse and energy development, conserving critical habitat for the imperiled species.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (August 21, 2019) – Governor Mark Gordon’s new Greater Sage-Grouse Executive Order, released today, maintains the level of Greater Sage-Grouse protections agreed upon in the 2015 management plans, despite the federal government’s consistent efforts to undo them. With the continued emphasis on using science to guide management, the Executive Order maintains the directive to prioritize energy development outside of sage-grouse Core Population Areas.

“This Executive Order demonstrates Wyoming’s continued leadership in sage-grouse conservation, despite rampant efforts by the federal government to undermine it,” said Brian Rutledge, National Audubon Society vice president and Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative director.

“Governor Gordon’s revision prioritizes improving and increasing sage-grouse habitat in order to increase the sage-grouse population. Doing so will benefit more than 350 other species of wildlife that depend on sagebrush habitat, including other species of conservation concern and big game species such as pronghorn and mule deer. By upholding critical conservation measures that balance wildlife and energy development, Wyoming has provided hope for sage-grouse and an example for other western states to follow,” said Rutledge

The sagebrush steppe is the largest ecosystem in North America and one of the most imperiled. It now only covers about half of its original size, and the quality of the remaining habitat has declined. The result has been a drastic reduction the world’s Greater Sage-Grouse population and numerous petitions to federally-protect the species.

 “Wyoming recognized more than a decade ago that we can accomplish more by working together to find solutions that not only work for people but also consider the long-term health of this iconic bird and the sagebrush country that its survival depends on,” said Rutledge.

Former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal signed the country’s first sage-grouse gubernatorial Executive Order in 2008, creating the state’s primary mechanism to protect sage-grouse while allowing other land uses to continue. Former Governor Matt Mead amended the order in 2015, and earlier this year Governor Gordon began a review of the order to further update it.

Wyoming plays an outsized role in sage-grouse conservation, both ecologically and politically. “Wyoming has the most and highest-quality sage-grouse habitat left,” said Rutledge. “Wyoming was the first state to create a sage-grouse Executive Order, which set the process in motion for other states. While our federal government is being driven by politicians that won’t be here to see the after-effects of their disastrous actions, Wyoming continues to recognize the value of thinking long-term and listening to residents and science. Governor Gordon’s efforts, and those of the many stakeholders involved in this process, are a bright light in an otherwise dark time for conservation.”

“Since the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service manage half of sage-grouse’s habitat, it’s critical that they engage at the level that Wyoming is. Until then, we hope that state leaders will continue to ensure that sage-grouse and the iconic sagebrush ecosystem are not a victim of Washington DC politics,” said Rutledge.


About Audubon
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

Audubon Rockies, the regional National Audubon Society office for Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, conserves and restores natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. Learn more at and by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @audubonrockies.

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