Tiny sage-grouse could muscle mining industry out of millions of acres

By: - August 12, 2021 10:27 am

The proposal, originally submitted during the Obama administration, was cancelled under the Trump administration, and now has been resurrected. (Bureau of Land Management photo)

A proposal to protect the sage-grouse and keep it off the endangered species list could prohibit mining of any kind on some 10 million acres of public land in the western U.S. for 20 years, including large chunks of northern Nevada, according to a notice from the Department of Interior. 

In Nevada, some 2.7 million acres of so-called Sagebrush Focal Areas, is at issue.  It’s ideal habitat for the sage-grouse and comprises “much of northern Elko and northern Humboldt Counties,” according to Patrick Donnelly, Nevada State Director for the Center for Biological Diversity. 

Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming acreage would also be off limits for mineral, gas, and oil extraction.

Private lands within the boundaries of the proposed withdrawal areas will not be affected, according to the Department of Interior’s notice.

Existing claims are also exempt. 

“And that is the number one reason that we are saying that this is really important but it’s not enough,” says Donnelly. “We need a mineral withdrawal across all priority sage grouse habitat, not just the SFAs. There are a lot of mining claims out there already.”

The proposal, originally submitted by President Barack Obama’s administration, was cancelled under President Donald Trump. But an Idaho court vacated the cancellation, breathing new life into the proposal. 

Donnelly says its resurrection is “probably the single most important public lands conservation move we’ve seen from (President Joe) Biden so far in this administration for Nevada. We’ve seen a lot of ‘reviews’ and ‘pauses’ but this is a tangible, on-the-ground improvement for wildlife.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak, members of Nevada’s congressional delegation, and the Nevada Mining Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the proposal.  

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.