Editorial: Will collaboration on sage grouse finally happen?

Nevada has every reason to feel like a slighted wallflower. We keep getting invited to the big sage grouse dance, but never get asked to dance.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney Adam Laxalt and others have complained bitterly that state and local input on how to protect the sage grouse population and still conduct economically productive endeavors on the land the birds occupy have been roundly and almost universally ignored by the federal land agencies.

A lawsuit filed by Laxalt on behalf of the state, several counties, a couple of mining firms and the owners of a ranch against the Interior Department, the Bureau of Land Management and others used a variant of the word “ignore” 22 times to describe how state and local objections to land use plans were received. In fact a motion filed by the state in that suit points out that after dismissing local input three top Interior Department officials met privately, after the public comment period was closed, with environmental groups to obtain their “buy-in” on a land use plan.

Sage grouse workshop session.

Sage grouse workshop session.

So, pardon us if we scoff at the cheery BLM press release from this past week under the headline: “Collaboration the key to Sage Grouse success.”

The press release announced the creation of Nevada-based working groups comprised of federal and state agencies and key stakeholders “to identify regulatory flexibility and improve communication and outreach between themselves and the public.”

The working groups resulted from a two-and-a-half day workshop in Reno in early December.

“A key part of the workshop was the emphasis on establishing and improving relationships between the agencies and stakeholders, “ said John Ruhs, state director for the BLM in Nevada. “We also spent time getting to know people as individuals as opposed to just identifying them by their interest or agency.”

He was further quoted as saying, “In the case of the amendments for the Greater sage grouse plans in Nevada, a collaborative network of local, state and federal partners is essential for protecting the sagebrush ecosystem while ensuring multiple uses.”

Though Ruhs has a reputation for being a straight shooter — he brokered a deal that allowed Battle Mountain district ranchers to temporarily continue grazing after permits had been denied — he does answer to the federal land bosses in Washington, from whence just two weeks ago came a proposal to ban mining on 10 million acres in the West — a quarter of that in Nevada alone and most of that in Elko County — to protect sage grouse.

Sandoval fired off a retort saying, “Today’s announcement does nothing to protect the greater sage-grouse, but does cripple the mining and exploration industry. It is an unfortunate end to our collaborative efforts with this administration. I am hopeful the new administration will consider the limited ecological benefits of this withdrawal.”

Now senior Nevada U.S. Sen. Dean Heller called the ban an 11th-hour attack on the West by a lame duck president.

“Federal land grabs are never popular in Nevada and the latest one by the BLM is no different. A mining ban does little to help sage grouse and will devastate northern Nevada’s future economic competitiveness,” Heller said in a press release. “I will partner with the next administration to reverse this decision and to ensure the BLM focuses on the real threats to sage grouse, like wildfires, instead of locking up Nevadans’ public lands. Those are the types of efforts, rather than these harmful mining bans, that will benefit our environment while also allowing our economy to grow,” Nevadans can only hope that with the changes coming in Washington these working groups might actually be listened to.

National BLM Director Neil Kornze — a former aide to Nevada Sen. Harry “Lock Up the Land and Throw Away the Key” Reid — has announced he is stepping down on Jan. 20, the day Donald Trump is inaugurated president.

Trump, meanwhile, has nominated Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, who grew up in a logging town, to head the Interior Department.

That BLM press release announcing the working groups quotes JJ Goicoechea, chairman of the Nevada Sagebrush Ecosystem Council, as saying, “While this process was just the beginning, there was a collective recognition of key issues to address and an overall feeling that if we don’t collaboratively work toward solutions, we will fail individually.”

Perhaps, with a different band in Washington playing a different tune, Nevada will finally get to dance.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

9 comments on “Editorial: Will collaboration on sage grouse finally happen?

  1. Jim Falk says:

    Great editorial, Mr. Mitchell. I wish it could be printed in our Fallon paper. It’s not surprising to see Mr. Reid’s puppet left the scene of the crime just before the new sheriff arrived. As I’m sure you are aware, Thursday marks the first anniversary of the murder of LaVoy Finicum by Law enforcement officials on his way to a town hall meeting in John Day, OR. He was just one of many here in the west willing to put their lives, their treasures and the sacred honor on the line for their cause. I’m sure you, as I, grow weary of the feds using the sage grouse as a “critter of convenience” in their efforts to grab ever-growing tracts of land. Any ranchers, farmer or miner who knows his (or her) business will tell you that they are not the threat to the bird. It’s the marauding bands of federal agents who mismanage the public lands. Jim Falk, Churchill County

  2. Vernon Clayson says:

    This is so stupid, saving this range bird benefits who? It doesn’t know that mankind surrounds its range, like most birds it’s brain isn’t as big as one of its eyes, it isn’t even worth domesticating for food or as pets. All it is is a replacement for the owl that tender bleeding hearts were so concerned with in forest lands in some other states.

  3. John Smith says:

    You mean oven and stuffing?

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. I’m told it is gather gamey.

  5. deleted says:

    Admittedly I am new to far rightspeak, but can anyone explain the meanings of these phrases to me, remembering of course, that federal land is owned by the federal governent and not this state or any other state?

    “Nevadans’ public lands.”; and
    “Federal land grabs”?

    “Our” Senator ought to know better right? I mean, how can the federal government be accused of “land grabbing” land, when they own the land right? I mean, it’s a littlle like calling the Koch Brothers land grabbers because of all the land they own right? And since the “public land” in Nevada does not belong to Nevada, what’s with the phrasing which would imply that it does?

    But again, any rightspeak interpreters out there who can help, I appreciate it.

  6. Steve says:

    John Smith, a Sage Grouse recipe for you. (Spelling corrected)

    On a plank, it’s the only way. Clean a bird and rub the inside and outside with real melted butter with salt, pepper and garlic mixed in. Cut several white potatoes into chunks and stuff in the bird. Cut up one med onion and four carrots and stuff inside the bird cover with tin foil and place on grill for one hour then open and coat outside with more melted butter and spice mix. Re-cover and cook for 20 more minutes. Take bird off he grill and remove the foil. Put the carrots, potatoes and onions in a separate bowl and pour out the juices from the inside of the bird over the vegetables. Slice the breast meat into thin slices placing on another plate. Take the rest of the carcass, meat and vegetables and throw them in the trash. Eat the plank!


  7. Vernon Clayson says:

    Deleted, the “land grabbing” is about Harry Reid, a former senator, and former president Obama removing areas of land within the state from development by Nevada’s people and business entities; that’s unless it profits individuals, not we Nevada citizens of course. The land taken recently is hardscrabble and barren with little or no water, it was taken for what might be underground in the way of useful carbon based material and, horrors, that will never do when there’s sun and wind to save the planet. “Nevada’s public lands” is at best a euphamism for land held by the ever overreaching feds.

  8. deleted says:

    Sorry Vernon it’s still morning and I’m not understanding.

    The point m making is that the land being discussed IS federal land, so how can there be any connotation that they’re “grabbing” something they already own; makes no sense. Now if the Feds were “grabbing” land they didn’t own, like they did years ago out at Groom Lake when they closed off land that didn’t belong to them, I could understand the point (course, you don’t hear any republican representatives talking much about THAT particular land grab do you?)

    But I appreciate he effort Vernon.

  9. Steve says:

    One person took the bait!

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