Editorial: BLM publishes new plans to protect sage grouse

A greater sage grouse male struts for a female. (Pix by Jeannie Stafford for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Bureau of Land Management under the Trump administration has followed through on its promise to give states greater flexibility on protecting greater sage grouse. On Friday a 204-page draft management plan for Nevada and northeastern California was published in the Federal Register.

The plan specifically states that its purpose is to enhance cooperation with the states by modifying sage grouse management to better align with the plans created by Nevada and California, covering more than 45 million acres under the jurisdiction of the BLM.

Though it was determined that sage grouse did not qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act, in 2015 the Obama administration violated the law and ignored scientific evidence when it concocted a 341-page pronouncement that 10 million acres of public land in 16 Western states — nearly a third of that in Nevada — would be taken out of consideration for future mining claims, as well as oil and gas drilling near breeding grounds and that there would be additional reviews on grazing permits. The plan envisioned restrictions on grazing, resource development, solar and wind energy, and public access to public land in Nevada.

According to a press release put out by the BLM announcing the new plans, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval welcomed the more cooperative stance by the agency. “I look forward to reviewing the draft Environmental Impact Statement and I trust that the Department of the Interior will continue to engage with and value the opinions of the impacted western governors,” Sandoval was quoted as saying. “I am confident we can find success by working together.”

Nevada’s senior U.S. Sen. Dean Heller was quoted as saying, “The Department of the Interior’s proposed changes represent an important step toward returning power back to our local communities, and lifting the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed regulations that have put major restrictions on millions of acres of land in Nevada and stifled economic opportunities.”

Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents northern Nevada, commented, “I would like to thank the secretary for doing a much-needed revisit of the previous administration’s policies regarding sage hen habitat. I look forward to hearing back from our stakeholders in Nevada regarding the proposed changes and plan to familiarize myself with this draft and provide further input.”

The publication of the draft plan opens a public comment period. The BLM will accept comments through Aug. 2. Comments may be submitted by mail:  BLM – Greater Sage-Grouse EIS, Nevada State Office, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno, NV 89502; or online at https://goo.gl/uz89cT.

The Nevada-California plan is posted online at: https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/lup/103343/143703/176904/NVCA_GRSG_DEIS_201805_508.pdf

The BLM also will conduct public meetings during the public comment period, which will be announced later.

The agency expects to publish a final Environmental Impact Statement and plan amendments by October.

Nevada’s BLM Associate State Director Marci Todd stated, “Two important developments have occurred since the 2015 plans were adopted. First, we’ve had two to three years to invest time and effort into improving sage grouse habitat. Second, we have received a great deal of feedback from our state partners about how the plans are working on the ground and needed changes.”

We welcome the fact that someone in the federal land bureaucracy is finally listening and recognizing the fact that people need to earn a livelihood in rural Nevada and can do so without endangering the sage grouse population.

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.



One comment on “Editorial: BLM publishes new plans to protect sage grouse

  1. Rincon says:

    The Economist seems to have a slightly different take on the matter: From the 5/5/18 issue, p.32:

    “From an estimated 16 million birds, the grouse has been reduced to fewer than 500,000 across 11 states. A decade ago, this almost led to it being listed under the Endangered Species Act, with potentially disastrous consequences. It would have restricted development on grouse habitat, potentially beggaring states such as Wyoming which collects 3/5 of its revenues from energy companies. To prevent that, the state forged a remarkable coalition of hunters, ranchers, conservationists, politicians, scientists, miners, and oil men to devise measures to stop the listing. Other western states followed suit, and in 2015, the Department of the Interior, which controls the public lands that dominate the West, included these and some additional measures in a sweeping new management regime for the western plains…”

    “The draft revisions suggest Mr. zinke wants to promote drilling on grouse habitat and give the states more say in managing it. The second aim, at least, sounds reasonable; one or two of the federally imposed measures seem ill advised and western states are fiercely independent. But there are two problems with this.
    First, the onus on state action risks losing sight of the original point of the conservation effort, which was to persuade the Fish and Wildlife Service not to list the grouse as threatened. Left to themselves, the evidence suggests, states would adopt weaker measures, risking the federal listing.
    Second, the upheaval Mr. Zinke has already caused is already a setback to the collaborative, locally grounded approach to land management that the plans, despite their federal imprimatur, represent. Such collaborations, a quiet success of three successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, have proliferated in the western states….are one of the most positive recent developments in American politics, a riposte to the dysfunction partisanship has caused.”

    I guess now, it becomes winner take all. But turnabout is fair play. And turn about it will. Unfortunately, the new reality of winner take all politics threatens our society. We’ll see whose system is stronger. ours or China’s (which is also winner take all, but without the constant whiplash of changing administrations).

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