Geothermal/BLM Sensitive Species

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Geothermal BLM Sensitive Species

BLM Sensitive Species
Present, Potentially Affected

Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973 to protect and restore plant and animal species that are at risk. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Sensitive Species is a list of species in each state that have the potential to become threatened or endangered if degradation continues. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFS) is responsible for mitigation measures of these species. If an area has any of these species living on or nearby it, mitigation measures can be found in a biological report sent out by the BLM. Visit the BLM’s state websites to find a list of sensitive, threatened and endangered species.

Criteria for becoming BLM Sensitive Species listed:

  • The species is native to that geographical area (BLM land);
  • There is sufficient information that the species has declined, is declining or is projected to decline without mitigation measures; and
  • Evidence that the species is reliant upon the unique habitat found on that particular BLM area and any disturbance would place the species at risk.

When a federally designated species is delisted, BLM is responsible for their habitat conservation five years following their delisting. This encourages the restoration process to stabilize as new activities could be introduced

BLM Sensitive Species Impacts & Mitigation

BLM Sensitive Species, including plants and animals, may live on or nearby geothermal access roads, proposed wells or well pads. These disturbances may impact their livelihoods. If a species is onsite, the BLM will send the Fish and Wildlife Biological Evaluation to the site. The evaluation will outline specific mitigation measures for each species listed onsite. Often the evaluation will suggest the relocation of well pads and access roads to avoid habitat disturbances.

Factors Affecting BLM Sensitive Species

There are several factors affecting BLM Sensitive Species. The factors below may assist the geothermal development process.

Habitat Degradation

One of the largest contributors to sensitive species listing is habitat loss. Plants and animals need food, water and shelter to survive. Ultimately, humans and other life forms are in competition for the same resources. Geothermal site development could alter existing plant and animal habitats.

Development disturbances include:

  • Site clearing and grading;
  • Road, power plant, and ancillary facility construction; and
  • Vehicle traffic.

These disturbances have the potential to affect ecological resources by increasing erosion and runoff, and creating noise at the project site. Impacts to animals include breeding and migration disruption, restricted foraging and territory, resulting in a reduced habitat quality.


Endemic species

These types of species are only found in a particular region and nowhere else in the world. These species are a concern to the BLM because if that species’ environment becomes unstable, their mortality is at a risk. Examples of endemic species are: the Gunnison sage grouse in Colorado; Yosemite lewisia (Lewisia disepala) and the Unexpected larkspur (Delphinium inopinum) located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California.


BLM species management

The BLM uses techniques that benefit each species to have the greatest positive impact. For plants, there are specific protocol measures to follow. Researchers conduct annual inventories and surveys to capture the plant in its flowering season. Researchers will then make observations to find the distribution, condition, and status of the plant to find trends. Annual surveys start with marking off a section of land with a tape measure to survey distribution of a plant and give researchers a systematic way to count the plants. These sections are called transects. After the data is collected, it is uploaded to a GPS (Global Positioning System), which is later uploaded to a GIS (Geographic Information System) modeling program. GPS is a quick reference tool to locate each plant quickly in the field using Earth coordinates. It makes comparing plant populations over time simple as researchers can add and subtract plants from the program. GIS modeling analyzes data to find and predict trends and patterns. This information tells researchers when to take conservation measures.

Animal behavior, including migration, predator prey relationships, diets, sleep habits and human interactions are studied to find trends. GPS and GIS modeling keep track of the statistics. Researchers also use camera traps to capture these behaviors in the wild in addition to field visits. Researchers then synthesize this information to decide which mitigation measures to impose.