Today, September 9, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed an executive order establishing the Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program. The governor made clear that the reason for the program was to try to protect the Sage Grouse and Private property interests, while maintaining state management of the species.

"You know Montanans recognize that it's in the best interests of our state, its economy, and our quality of life to maintain state management of the greater sage grouse. Through a public process and the work of a real diverse group of stakeholders, we've developed a dynamic and science based approach to ensure this bird remains under our management and is not listed under the endangered species act."

Once established, the program will implement a review process for actions that might impact the bird or its habitat. In addition, some uses and landowner activities are exempt from compliance with the strategy, including "county road maintenance, and production and maintenance activities associated with existing oil, gas, communication tower, and power line facilities."

Below are some of the goals of the executive order as listed on a statewide press release:

  • Adopts a comprehensive Program for keeping sage grouse management in the states hands;
  • Recognizes the important role that Montana’s private landowners play in sage grouse conservation and the need for voluntary incentives to help those landowners to stay on the land and preserve vital sage grouse habitat;
  • Creates the Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program and the Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team, attached to the Governor’s Office, to maintain state leadership, administer the program based on sound science, and continue to bring Montanans together to move sage grouse management forward;
  • Strikes the appropriate balance to preserve the sage grouse and its habitat and protect valid rights and existing land uses and activities; and
  • Ensures that Montana and Montanans will continue to manage this iconic species for the benefit of future generations – and continue to economically prosper from the industries that have existed in sage grouse country.