Greater sage-grouse populations in Nevada, and throughout their 11-state range, have declined significantly from their historic numbers. In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced the finding that listing the greater sage-grouse (range-wide) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act is warranted, but precluded by higher priority listing actions. If listed, the sage-grouse may have a greater impact to Nevada’s economy and the lifestyle of its citizens than the listing of any other species.
Wildfire is one of the primary drivers of greater-sage grouse habitat loss in the western portion of the greater sage-grouse range. Habitat degradation and fragmentation also result from the incursion of invasive species and conifer encroachment. In addition, infrastructure, mineral and energy development, improper grazing and other human activity contribute to loss of functional habitat for the species.
The Conservation Credit System (Credit System) is a pro-active solution to ensure impacts from human activities generate a net benefit for the species, while enabling human activities vital to the Nevada economy and way of life. The Credit System creates new incentives for 1) human activities to avoid and minimize impacts to important habitat for the species, and 2) private landowners and public land managers to preserve, enhance, restore, and reduce the threat of wildfire to important habitat for the species.
The Credit System is a market-based mechanism that quantifies conservation outcomes produced by landowners (as credits) and impacts from human activities (as debits), and creates the market framework for transactions to occur. Using Pay for Performance contracting, buyers such as BLM permittees can purchase verified credits to fulfill their compensatory mitigation requirements. The Credit System establishes the policy, operations and tools necessary to facilitate more effective and efficient conservation investments, and reports the overall progress from implementation of conservation actions throughout the greater sage-grouse range within Nevada. The Credit System is intended to provide regulatory certainty for industries by addressing compensatory mitigation needs whether or not the species is listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Kinross Gold was the first company to participate in a Credit System transaction in November 2017, which transferred 2,514 credits to offset effects to sage-grouse habitat due to mining operations from Kinross’s Bald Mountain gold mine in northeast Nevada. This historic event was the first transaction by any habitat exchange in the country. The Credit System currently has over 1,500 credits available for purchase, with a pipeline of credits representing 35,000 acres of sage-grouse habitat anticipated in 2018.