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BLM Proposes Amended Sage-Grouse Plans

BLM Proposes Amended Sage-Grouse Plans
December 06
07:32 2018

In keeping with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s commitment to work closely with states to enhance conservation, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and proposed plan amendments addressing Greater Sage-Grouse conservation on public land in Utah.

The proposed plan amendments aim to better align BLM resource management plans with state plans for conserving sage-grouse populations, strike a regulatory balance and build greater trust among neighboring interests in Western communities.  The proposed amendments and final EIS also addresses the issues remanded to the agency by a March 31, 2017, order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, which determined that the BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it finalized the 2015 Nevada plan.

“We have appreciated the opportunity to work with Governor Herbert’s team on a carefully crafted amendment 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.”

Bernhardt continued, “With today’s action we have leaned forward to address the various states’ issues, while appropriately ensuring that we will continue to be focused on meaningfully addressing the threats to the Greater Sage-Grouse and making efforts to improve its habitat.”

The BLM developed the changes in collaboration with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, state wildlife managers, and other concerned organizations and individuals, largely through the Western Governors Association’s Sage-Grouse Task Force.

“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,” Gov. Herbert said. “That has not been easy, but it’s the right approach for the species and for the state.”

The proposed changes refine the previous management plans adopted in 2015.  Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), the BLM is required by law to work cooperatively with states on land-use plans and amendments.

“The proposed plans help increase management flexibility for Utah’s working landscapes, allowing for multiple-uses while still providing robust ongoing protection of sage-grouse habitat,”said BLM Utah State Director Ed Roberson.”I value the close working relationship we have with the State of Utah and our cooperating agencies. The plans highlight our shared interests in conservation, while also supporting job-creating industries. It is the BLM’s mission to strike this kind of balance.”

In Utah, the proposed amendments would add exceptions to the No Surface Occupancy (NSO) stipulation on energy leases in non-habitat areas; allow disturbance or density caps to be exceeded when improved outcomes for habitat are expected to result; clarify the process of identifying “essential habitat” during coal leasing; and remove the Sagebrush Focal Area and General Habitat Management Area designations included in the 2015 plans.

The proposed amendments would also open 14,220 acres of BLM-managed lands to cross-country off-highway vehicle use, which represents a common-sense approach to providing more public access for recreation uses that is consistent with conservation of the species.  The amendment process also offered an opportunity for the BLM to align its mitigation requirements under FLPMA with those established under Utah law.

The BLM has also published Final EISs for lands it manages in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada/northeastern California, and Wyoming.

Publication of the Final EIS and proposed amendments in tomorrow’s Federal Register initiates a 30-day protest period, which will run through January 8, 2019.  The Utah 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 (ROD) following resolution of any protests received during the 30-day review period.

Approval of the Final EIS and Proposed Plan Amendments would require amendments to 14 current BLM resource management plans: Box Elder, Cedar/Beaver/Garfield/Antimony, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, House Range, Kanab, Park City, Pinyon, Pony Express, Price, Randolph, Richfield, Vernal, Warm Springs, and the Salt Lake District Isolated Tracts Planning Analysis.

Anyone who participated in the process for the Utah EIS and who has an interest that is or may be adversely affected by the proposed land use plan amendments in the Final EIS will have the opportunity to protest the proposed plan amendments.

The Final EIS is now available online at https://goo.gl/o2AQWQ.  Instructions for filing a protest with the Director of the BLM regarding the Proposed RMPA/Final EIS can be found online at https://www.blm.gov/programs/planning-and-nepa/public-participation/filing-a-plan-protest.  All protests must be in writing and mailed to the appropriate address or submitted electronically through the BLM ePlanning project website.  To submit a protest electronically, go to the ePlanning project webpage https://goo.gl/o2AQWQ and follow the instructions at the top of the home page.

If submitting a protest in hard copy, it must be mailed to one of the following addresses:

U.S. Postal Service Mail:  BLM Director (210), Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210, P.O Box 71383, Washington, D.C. 20024-1383

Overnight Delivery:  BLM Director (210), Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210,
20 M Street SE, Room 2134LM, Washington, D.C. 20003

Protests submitted electronically by any means other than the ePlanning project website will be invalid unless a protest is also submitted in hard copy.  Protests submitted by fax will also be invalid unless also submitted either through ePlanning project website protest section or in hard copy.

Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personally identifiable information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personally identifiable information – may be made publicly available at any time.  While you can ask the BLM in your comment to withhold your personally identifiable information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

 


STATEMENT regarding release of Bureau of Land Management sage-grouse plans

Today the Bureau of Land Management released the Final Environmental Impact Statements for Interior Secretary Zinke’s proposed changes to landmark sage-grouse conservation plans. In response, the Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Policy Director Jesse Prentice-Dunn:

“In announcing these changes, Secretary Zinke is breaking a compromise deal made just three years ago by Westerners of all stripes, who set aside their differences to conserve key sage-grouse habitat and provide certainty for communities and industry around the region.

“Now, the Interior Department is punching oil rig-sized loopholes through the sage-grouse plans and preparing to gut the Endangered Species Act at the same time. It paints a grim future for the imperiled bird. Whether it’s caribou in Alaska, mule deer in Wyoming, or sage-grouse in Colorado, under Secretary Zinke, wildlife in the way of oil and gas development doesn’t stand a chance.”

Learn more:

For more information, visit westernpriorities.org.

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