BLM’s sage-grouse plans put Western communities first
The Bureau of Land Management will publish six draft supplemental environmental impact statements (SEISs) on Friday for management of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat on public lands in seven Western states, highlighting the collaborative process undergone in 2019 to develop plans that reflected the needs of Western communities and Greater Sage Grouse habitat.
The draft SEISs address issues identified in an October 16, 2019, order issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, which placed a preliminary injunction on the implementation of 2019 BLM sage-grouse plans in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada/northeastern California and Oregon.
“In March of last year, the Greater Sage-Grouse conservation plans were adopted with strong bipartisan support by the Western states, as the plans made important modifications that matched the input provided by the states and Western communities,” said Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond. “The draft SEISs illustrate the hard look and robust analysis we performed in this collaborative process to balance our habitat conservation and enhancement goals in response to recent litigation.”
The draft SEISs explain how the range of alternatives analyzed in the 2019 EISs was developed, the incorporation by reference of the effects analysis from the 2015 EISs, and how best available science was used. Reports by the National Technical Team and Conservation Objective Team were critical in developing the plans. The current draft SEISs also clarify the BLM’s approach to compensatory mitigation in authorizing various uses of lands that also provide habitat for the sage-grouse.
Suspending implementation of the 2019 plans has affected programs and projects across the BLM and in Western states from authorizations of renewable energy projects and oil and gas leases to grazing permit renewals and wildfire management. For example, in northeastern California, adaptive management measures to respond to changes in sage-grouse populations cannot currently be used because the data-model used in the 2015 plan is no longer the best available information.
In Wyoming, a land exchange that would increase public access and improve resource management cannot proceed and in Utah, court-ordered travel management planning has been slowed while routes are re-evaluated for conformance with the earlier sage-grouse plans. The impact to the states goes on, but the BLM is complying with the court’s order by conforming its actions to the 2015 plans while the draft SEISs undergo public review and comment.
States primarily manage wildlife species, and federal agencies like the BLM manage wildlife habitat. The 2019 plans were adopted after months of close coordination and cooperation with state governments in the affected states. The goal was to better align BLM plans for managing habitat with state plans for conserving the species, including state plans for compensatory mitigation, while addressing the circumstances and needs of each individual state.
The 2019 plans received bipartisan support from the governors who sought changes to the 2015 plans for their respective states.
The draft SEISs are now available online. The BLM will accept comments on the documents starting Friday, February 21, 2020, through April 6, 2020.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $111 billion in economic output across the country in fiscal year 2019—more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 498,000 jobs.