Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 15, 2019

Contacts:  Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy, (202) 888-7490, sholmer@abcbirds.org
Patrick Donnelly, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 483-0449, pdonnelly@biologicaldiversity.org
Laura Cunningham, Western Watersheds Project, (775) 513-1280, lcunningham@westernwatersheds.org
Taylor Jones, WildEarth Guardians, (720) 443-2616, tjones@wildearthguardians.org

Motion Filed to Defend Bi-state Sage Grouse From Off-roaders' Lawsuit

RENO, Nev.― Four conservation groups filed a motion today to intervene in a lawsuit from off-road vehicle groups who object to protection for the bi-state sage grouse in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The protections require buffers and seasonal limits to racing in the birds’ habitat. 

The Sierra Trail Dogs hold a 250-mile dirt bike rally through some of the best remaining sage-grouse habitat in the Mono Basin region. They object to shifting the event from June to July to comply with protections the Forest Service added after it reviewed new scientific information about the birds’ habitat requirements. Conservation groups say the additional protective measures are critical to the survival of the species. 

“The restrictions that the Forest Service put in place are needed to prevent the extinction of the bi-state sage grouse,” said Steve Holmer of the American Bird Conservancy. “The lawsuit is quibbling about six extra weeks of closure and an extra mile of buffer that protects the bird during breeding season. This was part of a settlement negotiation concerning the continued existence of a highly imperiled species, and we are fighting to uphold the agreement and protect this habitat.”

The bi-state sage grouse of the Mono Basin on the California-Nevada border are genetically isolated from the larger population of greater sage grouse and are designated a “distinct population segment.” Sage grouse will abandon nesting habitats and breeding grounds, known as “leks,” if they are disturbed. Human activities like livestock grazing, development and off-road vehicle use stress the birds and could negatively impact important breeding periods. 

“The Forest Service did the right thing by strengthening sage-grouse protections under the Humboldt-Toiyabe plan,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “We want to defend the grouse and the Forest Service from the selfish interests of a user group that is showing a prominent lack of respect for the native wildlife.”

In response to science brought forward by conservationists during the planning process, the Forest Service expanded lek buffers to four miles and expanded seasonal moratoriums on off-road vehicle contests to include the entire breeding and nesting period.

“These conservation measures are essential to the survival of these beautiful birds,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Bi-state sage grouse are teetering on the brink of extinction across much of their range. Sage grouse are crucial to our precious Great Basin ecosystems and the hundreds of plants and animals that depend on them. We’ll do everything we can to protect them.”

“All but one bi-state sage-grouse population management units have been declining, and the Pine Nut Mountains population has been crashing in the last two years. Running a motorcycle race through this imperiled bird’s habitat during the lekking season would only add to threats that are pushing this population over the cliff,” said Laura Cunningham, California director for Western Watersheds Project.

The groups that filed today’s motion to intervene in the lawsuit are the American Bird Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians. They are represented by Mills Legal Clinic at Stanford Law School.

American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. We take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit conservation organization with a mission to restore and protect western watersheds.

WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit conservation organization whose mission is to protect and restore the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West.

www.biologicaldiversity.org

More press releases