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Transmission 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 (FWS) 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

BLM may classify a species as a Sensitive Species, if:

  • 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, the BLM is responsible for their habitat conservation five years following the 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 transmission line pathways or access roads. If a species habitat is on or nearby the proposed transmission pathway, wildlife or plant biologists conduct site evaluations. These evaluations are valid for one calendar year and place provisions on how close development can occur to wildlife habitats or plant ecosystems.

High quality habitats include keystone species that support and nourish the BLM sensitive species. If these species are disturbed, the BLM sensitive species is put at risk. Development activity also impacts ecological resources by increasing erosion, 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.

The following mitigation measures can decrease development activities to protect BLM sensitive species and their surrounding habitats:

Site evaluations

  • Place flags or build fences around a plant species.
  • If degradation is unavoidable, biologists may suggest relocating the transmission line and access roads. In rare cases, a biologist will relocate plants.


  • Create a program to educate employees about site-specific ecological or wildlife issues to decrease harm to BLM sensitive species.

High Quality Habitats

  • Complete avoidance ensures the species’ longevity, however, if this is not possible due to topographical, biological, or engineering constraints, indirect, sparse disturbances, monitor these areas.

Habitat Degradation

Development disturbances include:

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

Factors Affecting BLM Sensitive Species

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

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 behaviors, 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.