Land Management Plans for Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation

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From the comments:

In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) found that the sage grouse was warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) but precluded from listing due to other species with higher listing priority. In their 2010 finding, the USFWS identified habitat loss and fragmentation and the lack of adequate regulatory mechanisms as the primary threats to the sage grouse.

Livestock grazing and energy development play a substantial role in sage grouse habitat degradation that led to the warranted but precluded finding. These activities were a significant factor in the 2014 and 2015 amendments to land management plans on public lands administered by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service. 

In October 2015 the USFWS issued its determination that the sage grouse did not warrant listing under the ESA. The USFWS cited the conservation commitments in the amended land use plans as a substantial reason behind its “not warranted” finding. On June 7 of this year, Secretary of Interior Zinke issued Order 3353. In short, the Department of the Interior believes the protections or the potential protections in the amended land management plans are too restrictive on commercial activities on the public lands, and it wants to return as much as possible to the earlier status quo.

Y2U maintains the amended land management plans were insufficiently protective of sage grouse and did not allow recovery of viable populations across the species’ historic range. However, the amendments began to improve on the management problems that led to the “warranted” determination in 2010. Whereas Y2U welcomes the opportunity to improve the conservation outcomes of land use plan implementation, amending the current plans as proposed is ill-advised and not supported by the best available science, or even by the analysis provided in the Report in Response to Secretarial Order 3353 (August 4, 2017).

In response to DOI Order 3353 and with implementation of the 2015 plans barely underway, plans that formed the basis for the 2015 USFWS “not warranted” decision, the BLM isbackpedaling on its prior commitments and reneging on the deal it agreed to by proposing to weaken the very same conservation measures that Y2U maintains to have been inadequate to conserve sage grouse and habitat in the first instance.

See the full comments (attached).

docxY2U Notice of Intent Scoping CommentsdocxY2U Notice of Intent Scoping Comments Forest Service