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
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, ARIZONA CHAPTER
    What We Can Achieve Together: Arizona's Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure...
  • CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Capacity Building Program Manager works directly with the business unit's Arizona Healthy Cities Program Director to advance the Healthy...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND OFFICE MANAGER - FRIENDS OF THE INYO
    Friends of the Inyo - Donor database management & reporting, IT/HR, and office administrative support. PT or FT. Partly remote OK but some in-office time...
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    New Mexico Land Conservancy is seeking a qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating,...
  • GRAPHIC AND DIGITAL DESIGNER
    Application deadline: December 17, 2022 Expected start date: January 16, 2023 Location: Amazon Watch headquarters in Oakland, CA Amazon Watch is a dynamic nonprofit organization...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eugene, Ore. nonprofit Long Tom Watershed Council is seeking a highly collaborative individual to lead a talented, dedicated team of professionals. Full-time: $77,000 - $90,000...
  • GIS SPECIALIST
    What We Can Achieve Together: The GIS Specialist provides technical and scientific support for Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, data management, and visualization internally and...
  • LOWER SAN PEDRO PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Lower San Pedro Program Manager directs some or all aspects of protection, science, stewardship and community relations for the...
  • FOREST RESTORATION SPATIAL DATA MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Forest Restoration Spatial Data Manager fills an integral role in leading the design and development of, as well as...
  • WATER PROJECTS MANAGER, SOUTHERN AZ
    What We Can Achieve Together: Working hybrid in Tucson, AZ or remote from Sierra Vista, AZ or other southern Arizona locations, the Water Projects Manager,...
  • SENIOR STAFF THERAPIST/PSYCHOLOGIST: NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENT SPECIALIST
    Counseling Services is a department strategically integrated with Health Services within the Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management. Our Mission at the Counseling Center...
  • THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IS HIRING A LOCAL INITIATIVES COORDINATOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks a Local Initiatives Coordinator to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator to develop, manage and advance...
  • LAND AND WATER PROTECTION MANAGER - NORTHERN ARIZONA
    We're Looking for You: Are you looking for a career to help people and nature? Guided by science, TNC creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our...
  • SENIOR CLIMATE CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) seeks a Senior Climate Conservation Associate (SCCA) to play a key role in major campaigns to protect the lands, waters,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Southern Nevada Conservancy Board of Directors announces an outstanding opportunity for a creative leader to continue building this organization. SNC proudly supports Nevada's public...
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • STRAWBALE HOME BESIDE MONTEZUMA WELL NAT'L MONUMENT
    Straw Bale Home beside Montezuma Well National Monument. Our property looks out at Arizona fabled Mogollon Rim and is a short walk to perennial Beaver...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.