BLM Issues Directives on Sage Grouse

BLM Issues Directives on Sage Grouse

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced on October 5 that it would be opening a public comment period on sage-grouse conservation plans and that it would cancel the withdrawal of 10 million acres of Sagebrush Focal Areas from future mining.

The comment period on sage-grouse conservation plans opened on October 11 when the Notice of Intent to review the resource management plans was published in the Federal Register. The agency states that it “intends to consider the possibility of amending some, all, or none of the BLM land use plans that were amended or revised in 2014 and 2015” in 10 western states. In particular, the agency is interested in receiving input on potential issues, management questions or concerns that should be addressed in potential amendments. Specifically, BLM “seeks comment on the Sage-grouse Focal Area designation, mitigation standards, lek buffers in all habitat management area types, disturbance and density caps, habitat boundaries to reflect new information, and reversing adaptive management responses when the BLM determines that resource conditions no longer warrant those responses. The BLM also seeks comment on State-specific issues, such as the need for General Habitat Management Areas in Utah, and other issues identified by State, tribal, and local governments.”

“The BLM is committed to being a good neighbor and cooperating with its partners at all levels of government, including states, as well as tribal leaders, industry and conservation groups, ranchers, and other stakeholders throughout the amendment process,” said BLM Acting Director Mike Nedd. “During this process, we are particularly interested in hearing from the many governors whose states put hard work and time into collaborative efforts to develop the existing plans. We welcome their input.”

The comment period on sage-grouse plans will be open until November 27; potential public scoping meetings will be posted on an agency website and published in local news media.

In its announcement regarding mining withdrawals, the agency reports that the proposal to withdraw 10 million acres was “unreasonable in light of the data that showed that mining affected less than .1 percent of sage-grouse-occupied range.” The agency also said that in all three Endangered Species Act decisions (2005 Not Warranted, 2010 Warranted but Precluded, and 2015 Not Warranted) made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated that mining was not a significant threat to the grouse.

“The proposal to withdraw 10 million acres to prevent 10,000 from potential mineral development was a complete overreach,” said Nedd. “Secretary Zinke has said from the beginning that by working closely with the states, who are on the front lines and a valued partner in protecting the health of these lands, we can be successful in conserving greater sage grouse habitat without stifling economic development and job growth. And that’s what we intend to do—protect important habitat while also being a good neighbor to states and local communities.”

October 16, 2017