Published since 1946
Zinke Orders Review of Sage-grouse Plans
On June 8, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3353 calling for the review of sage-grouse conservation plans that were finalized prior to the decision not to list the bird on the federal Endangered Species Act. The secretarial order establishes an internal review team that will evaluate the federal plans to ensure that they are complementary to state sage-grouse plans. The interagency review team is made up of representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The team will focus on two key threats to sage-grouse – invasive species and wildfires – and will evaluate whether the plans negatively impact local economies. They have also been asked to consider alternative approaches such as captive breeding programs, establishing state population targets, and improving state involvement in conservation on public lands.
“While the federal government has a responsibility under the Endangered Species Act to responsibly manage wildlife, destroying local communities and levying onerous regulations on the public lands that they rely on is no way to be a good neighbor,” said Secretary Zinke in a press statement. “State agencies are at the forefront of efforts to maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations, and we need to make sure they are being heard on this issue. As we move forward with implementation of our strategy for sage-grouse conservation, we want to make sure that we do so first and foremost in consultation with state and local governments, and in a manner that allows both wildlife and local economies to thrive. There are a lot of innovative ideas out there. I don't want to take anything off the table when we talk about a plan.”
The Department of the Interior suggests that restrictions put in place through the plans could stifle development and use of federal public lands. In their review, the team must also consider Secretarial Order 3349 that encourages energy production on public lands as it evaluates the plans. Critics of the plans have claimed that they significantly restrict mining and energy development, however a report released by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers on June 13 determined that there was little overlap between sage grouse priority habitat areas and areas with the highest potential for energy development. Their research, performed by Western EcoSystem Technology Inc. found that 79 percent of the medium to high potential energy areas, both traditional and renewable resources, fell outside of these core areas. Only 4 percent of existing energy leases overlap with sage-grouse priority areas. The organization suggests these findings show that sage-grouse conservation and energy development can co-exist.