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
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.