The Interior Department orders a review of sage grouse plans

Some Western governors warn against an overhaul of the sweeping 2015 efforts.

 

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced yesterday a major review of 2015 sage grouse conservation plans. The plans, spanning 70 million acres and 10 Western states, represent an unprecedented compromise between the federal government and states over how to manage public lands to protect the imperiled bird while also allowing for energy development and other uses. Zinke’s new order requires a review to determine whether the Obama-era plans gave states enough say, and whether they inappropriately block extractive industry.

Sage grouse on the Coalmont lek outside of Walden, Colorado.

“There have been complaints by several of the governors that their ability to use federal lands, whether it’s for oil and gas, recreation, timber, across the board, that some of the heavy-handedness on habitat doesn’t allow for some of those uses,” Zinke said during a press call on Wednesday. “We just want to make sure first and foremost we work hand in hand with the states.”

Yet the 2015 plans now under review took five years to create and were in fact the product of input from an array of stakeholders, including state officials, ranchers, environmentalists, oil and gas representatives, and federal agencies. For many stakeholders, the sweeping conservation effort was a way to avoid listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, which would likely have led to stricter regulations on land use in the bird’s habitat.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, penned a letter to Zinke in May, warning against a major overhaul of the plans. Mead and Hickenlooper served as co-chairs of a task force that led negotiations for the grouse plans in 2015. “The task force as a group and the sage grouse states individually were directly involved in the development of those plan amendments,” the letter reads. “Wholesale changes to the land use plans are likely not necessary at this time.”

According to Zinke’s secretarial order, a team of “land managers and other professionals from bureaus and offices, including (Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey)” is tasked with the review. The group will coordinate with the U.S. Forest Service and state agencies. The secretary has recommended they take “creative approaches” to the sage grouse issue, such as captive breeding and focusing more on population targets rather than habitat management.

Federal officials have 60 days to conduct a review and provide Zinke with recommendations regarding the sage grouse plan.

Tay Wiles is an associate editor at High Country News and can be reached at [email protected]

High Country News Classifieds
  • NATURE EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Our mission is to inspire a life-long connection to nature and community through creative exploration of the outdoors. We are seeking an educational leader who...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND MARKETING DIRECTOR
    The Development and Marketing Director is a senior position responsible for the execution of all development and marketing strategies to raise funds and increase public...
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Coordinates all Wyoming Wildlife Federation philanthropic activities. Tasks include identification, recruitment, and retention of donors, organizing fundraising events, and assisting with grant writing.
  • REALTOR NEEDS A REMOTE ASSISTANT
    This is a business assistant position, The working hours are flexible and you can chose to work from anywhere of your choice, the pay is...
  • CORPORATE & GRANTS PARTNER MANAGER
    Forever Our Rivers Foundation Corporate Partnerships Manager February 2020 www.ForeverOurRivers.org Forever Our Rivers Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was formed in late 2016 with the mission...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • MEDIA DIRECTOR
    Love working with the media? Shine a spotlight on passionate, bold activists fighting for wild lands, endangered species, wild rivers and protecting the climate.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - NEVADA
    The Center for Biological Diversity is seeking an attorney to expand our litigation portfolio in Nevada. Come join our hard-hitting team as we fight for...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation seeks an energetic leader to advance our mission, sustain our operations, and grow our grassroots power. For a full position description,...
  • EARTH CRUISER FX FOR SALE
    Overland vehicle for long distance travel on or off road. Fully self-contained. Less than 25,000 miles. Located in Redmond, OR. Offered at $225,000. Call 541-526-5164.
  • HISTORIC COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITY IN DOWNTOWN NOGALES
    Nogales. 3 active lower spaces and upper floor with lots of potential. 520-245-9000 [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • DIRECTOR, TEXAS WATER PROGRAMS
    The National Wildlife Federation seeks a Director to lead our water-related policy and program work in Texas, with a primary focus on NWF's signature Texas...
  • SPLIT CREEK RANCH
    Spectacular country home on 48 acres with Wallowa River running through it! 541-398-1148 www.RubyPeakRealty.com
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...
  • NEW MEXICO GILA NATIONAL FOREST HORSE RANCH
    43 acres in the Gila National Forest. Horse facility, custom home. Year-round outdoor living. REDUCED to $999,000, 575-536-3109.
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • COPPER CANYON MEXICO CAMPING & BACKPACKING
    Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.