Updated Plans for Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Reflect Wishes of States, Governors

WASHINGTON – Proposed revisions to the Bureau of Land Management’s Greater Sage-Grouse conservation plans reflect months of consultation and collaboration with Western governors on how best to avoid listing of the species as threatened and endangered without stifling local economies.

In announcing the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and proposed plan amendments addressing Greater Sage-Grouse on public lands in seven Western states this week, the BLM is fulfilling a commitment made by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to work closely with governors on conservation and other issues.

During Secretary Zinke’s review of sage-grouse management, the governors of most of the affected sage-grouse states asked the BLM to revisit the plans and adapt them to better meet their individual needs. 

In response, the BLM developed the changes in collaboration with governors and state wildlife agency professionals in the seven affected states, as well as other concerned organizations and individuals, largely through the Western Governors Association’s Sage-Grouse Task Force.

“We have appreciated the opportunity to work with the governors to amend to the 2015 plans,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “We know the successful conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse requires the shared stewardship vision of the states, private citizens, landowners and federal land management agencies, including those within the Department of the Interior.”

 “It is refreshing to have a federal agency willing to listen to the people in Idaho on an issue so important to our state and the West,” said Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.  “I appreciate Secretary Zinke’s commitment to upholding our state-based conservation plan for sage-grouse.  We worked hard to develop a plan that was based in science and appropriately tailored to address the primary threats in Idaho.” 

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval also supported the BLM’s effort to incorporate state feedback, noting “The State of Nevada is pleased the final EIS is finished.  We appreciate the opportunity to have worked closely with the Department of the Interior on our concerns, and thank them for incorporating our input into the final plan amendments.”

In Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead said, "Having better alignment between state and federal management for the bird is important to the species and the people of Wyoming.  I thank the Department of the Interior, both locally and nationally, for working with Wyoming throughout this plan amendment process."

These sentiments are shared by the leaders of the other states in sage-grouse country. Other reactions from governors included:

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown: “Collaboration is hard work, and I appreciate the efforts by our stakeholders, state agencies and the Department of the Interior to craft an agreement to protect the sage grouse.  Balancing sage grouse habitat protection and economic development requires mitigation of negative impacts.  This agreement is a critical step that marks a shift away from planning toward active conservation and landscape management to protect this iconic species. Oregon’s bounty is beautiful and worth continuing to protect and fight for.” 

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert:  “This is a great example of federal leaders listening to state leaders, valuing their expertise, and changing their plans based on that input. Secretary Zinke, Deputy Secretary Bernhardt, and BLM Deputy Director Steed have worked with us to develop plans that support Utah’s ongoing efforts to conserve, enhance, and restore sage-grouse habitats throughout the state. That has not been easy, but it’s the right approach for the species and for the state.”  

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper: “We worked with the Bureau of Land Management and our stakeholders to produce a plan that maintains protection for the sage grouse while balancing the potential impact on local economies.  This is a significant step that closes out the planning phase and allows us to begin to see the true conservation efforts that safeguard the sage grouse in Colorado.” 

Publication of the Final EISs and proposed amendments in the Federal Register initiates a 30-day protest period, which will run through January 8, 2019.  Each governor also has 60 days to review the proposed amendments for consistency with state and local laws and regulations.  The process will conclude with a Record of Decision following resolution of any protests received during the 30-day review period. 

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

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Bureau of Land Management