Rocky Mountain Region – National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy
The Rocky Mountain Region includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, northeastern Utah, and Wyoming.
In March 2010, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published its listing decision for the greater sage-grouse as “Warranted but Precluded.” Inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms was identified as a major threat to the species in the USFWS finding on the petition to list the greater sage-grouse. The USFWS has identified the principal regulatory mechanism for the BLM as conservation measures in Resource Management Plans (RMPs).
Based on the identified threats to the greater sage-grouse and the USFWS timeline for making a listing decision on this species, the BLM needs to incorporate explicit objectives and adequate conservation measures into RMPs by the end of 2014 in order to conserve greater sage-grouse and avoid a potential listing under the Endangered Species Act. The planning strategy will evaluate the adequacy of BLM RMPs and address, as necessary, revisions and amendments throughout the range of the greater sage-grouse (with the exception of the bi-state population in California and Nevada and the Washington state population segment, which will be addressed through other planning efforts).
The BLM determined that the proposed strategy is a major federal action which requires the preparation of Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The BLM solicited public and agency input to identify issues to address in the EISs and is coordinating with other federal, state, and local government agencies in preparing the documents. The BLM is conducting detailed environmental studies on the proposed and alternative policies, and is analyzing how implementation of the policies may affect the quality of the environment.
Overview of the National Planning Strategy
The BLM is developing a national strategy to preserve, conserve, and restore sagebrush habitat, the ecological home of the greater sage-grouse. The BLM will issue national policy and direction, based on local needs and information, to guide the agency’s actions and raise the importance of sagebrush conservation in BLM planning efforts. At the local level, the BLM will initiate or continue to work on formal plan “amendments” for BLM RMPs to reflect new conservation measures. Greater sage-grouse habitat is addressed in as many as 98 current BLM RMPs or Management Framework Plans (the name given to an earlier generation of RMPs).
For the purposes of this planning effort, the BLM has divided the greater sage-grouse’s range into a Rocky Mountain Region and a Great Basin Region. This division allows for closer cooperation and partnerships on region-specific conservation and habitat restoration measures. Sage-grouse face distinct challenges in different parts of the country. For example, wildfire is a large challenge in the Great Basin Region, whereas energy development is fragmenting habitat in the Rocky Mountain Region. Dividing the greater sage-grouse’s range into two regions makes it easier to tailor conservation actions to the specific conditions of an area.
A flow chart shows how this strategy is structured.
Rocky Mountain Region Planning Strategy
For the purposes of this planning effort, the Rocky Mountain Region is divided into four sub-regions: Colorado; Montana and the Dakotas; and Wyoming. While Utah straddles both the Rocky Mountain Region and the Great Basin Region it is being addressed as a sub-region with its own EIS under the Great Basin Region. Each sub-region will undertake an EIS covering its territory (see the Rocky Mountain Region Contacts page for sub-region team leads). Each sub-region-specific EIS will have its own strategy to address sagebrush issues and will address the impacts of amending all pertinent RMPs with that guidance. Only RMPs that cover planning areas containing sagebrush habitat will be included for amendment. The Record of Decision, which comes at the end of the EIS process, will amend the RMPs to include the new management direction.
BLM started the process to amend or revise RMPs to reflect new conservation measures, starting in fall 2011.
The EIS process is guided by NEPA. As with all EISs, the NEPA process is kicked off with the publication of a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register. You can view the NOI under this site’s Documents and Resources page.
Scoping Has Been Completed
The next step in the EIS process was the scoping period. Scoping is when the project team consults with the public and other agencies to help refine the scope of the project and identify issues of concern to be addressed in an EIS. The BLM hosted scoping meetings across the Rocky Mountain Region in January 2012. Visit the Get Involved page to see a list of the meeting dates and locations.
Since scoping was completed, the BLM and its consultants prepared a Scoping Report that summarizes all the great input you and others provided during this period. The Scoping Report is available on the Documents and Resources page of this Web site. The project team is now working on incorporating your input into the development of the sub-region-specific EISs.
In 2013, the BLM project lead of each sub-region will announce the availability of a Draft EIS for that sub-region. This document will have a comment period that will give you an opportunity to review what the team has prepared and to comment on changes you would like to see. From that feedback, each sub-region team will develop a Final EIS, which brings the project near the end of the process. Finally, each BLM sub-region team will sign its own Record of Decision, which will complete the process and incorporate the planning strategy into the respective RMPs.
To keep informed, visit the Get Involved page on this site and sign up for the project mailing list. Typically in projects such as this, three to four hard copy newsletters are sent out to the mailing list to notify interested parties of major project milestones and of opportunities for public involvement. If you provide your email address, you will not only save paper by receiving electronic newsletters instead of paper mailings, but you will also receive more frequent e-mails announcing project updates and smaller milestones. To keep informed, visit the the Rocky Mountain Region Contacts page, which includes links to sub-region specific Web sites.
The sub-regional EISs are being developed through the BLM’s electronic planning system, called ePlanning. ePlanning improves transparency in the NEPA process, reduces paper, and improves record-keeping throughout the preparation of environmental documents such as EISs. During public review periods, ePlanning allows interested parties to view documents online, make comments directly on those documents via their computer, and submit the marked up document back to the BLM with the click of a button. Traditional methods of submitting comments, such as by letter, fax, or e-mail are always an option as well. More information will be provided on ePlanning at the time of public review of the Draft EISs.
You can view other documents being produce in ePlanning by visiting the BLM’s ePlanning National Planning Register.