The Bureau of Land Management is hosting public meetings this week to discuss the recently released draft amendments to the sage-grouse plans finalized in 2015.
Public Meetings in Colorado:
June 26, Silt, CO, 5:00-7:00 pm, BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office, 2300 River Frontage Rd, Silt, CO 81652
June 27, Craig, CO, 5:00-7:00 pm, Moffat County Fairgrounds, 640 E Victory Way, Craig, CO 81625
Talking Points from The Pew Charitable Trusts:
Secretary Zinke is breaking a deal made by westerners and federal officials
- After nearly a decade of hard work from westerners to draft the 2015 Sage Grouse plans, Secretary Zinke and the Department of the Interior announced major changes that undermine years of hard work and compromise. This action breaks the deal that federal officials made with western states in 2015, when the plans were originally finalized.
The changes to the plans imperil the health of the sage grouse and the 350 species of animals and plants that depend on a healthy sagebrush
- The amendments to the plans gut some of the most important protections for the sage grouse. Specifically, Secretary Zinke took an ax to most of the Sage Grouse Focal Areas which protected over 8.7 million acres of vital habitat. In Wyoming and Utah oil and gas companies no longer have to prioritize development outside of sage-grouse habitat, even though studies have found that areas with the most potential for development fall outside of sage grouse habitat. In Montana, Secretary Zinke directly ignored Gov. Bullock’s opposition and went ahead and made significant changes to sage-grouse management in southwest Montana.
This proposal ignores overwhelming public input urging the BLM and Forest Service to leave the plans alone.
- The amendments also ignore the roughly 400,000 public comments that both the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) received during their respective public comment periods urging both agencies to honor the deal, let the collaborative plans work, and support the common ground established among a diverse group of stakeholders in the 2015 plans.
By ignoring westerners and science, Secretary Zinke is threatening the survival of the sage-grouse and undermining certainty for businesses that depend on a healthy and working sagebrush landscape.
- Contrary to public sentiment and the weight of peer-reviewed science, Secretary Zinke’s proposed changes to the plans will cause great uncertainty for western business owners, ranchers, hunters and everyone who values honest, consensus driven management of habitat and public lands. This move could also impact and cause declines in over 350 species of animals and plants that depend on the “big empty” of the sagebrush sea – habitat that drives over $1 billion in outdoor related economic activity in the rural west.
Secretary Zinke’s changes will harm the sage-grouse, putting it on a path towards the Endangered Species Act, exactly the outcome these plans were designed to prevent.
- Most importantly, Secretary Zinke’s proposed changes would move the west backwards and set the sage-grouse down a path toward needing a listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), all as a favor to a couple of states. The original plans were specifically created to commit to conservation and avoid the need for an ESA listing, and cited by Fish and Wildlife biologists as the reason an ESA listing was no longer warranted at the time (after having found the previous state of affairs did require listing). Now, political favors to industry and a few elected officials threatens the certainty of the deal. The West deserves better.
Secretary Zinke should listen to Westerners, abandon his unpopular plans, and honor the deal to protect the sage-grouse.
- Instead of implementing changes to the plans that would be devastating for the sage-grouse and the entire sagebrush-steppe ecosystem, Secretary Zinke must honor the deal that Interior made with westerners in 2015. Westerners still abide by handshake deals. For Secretary Zinke to mandate a drastic overhaul without public support and call for a do-over after so many westerners worked together for years to craft the plans is an insult to all who value public lands, local economies and wildlife. Westerners won’t forget this and Secretary Zinke will own the consequences of his horrible actions.