A Collaborative West-wide Conservation Plan
Scrapped in the Name of “Energy Dominance”
Although the Trump administration touts the importance of state engagement and local input, its actions tell a different story.
In what many see as an egregious concession to mining and oil and gas lobbyists, Secretary Zinke last fall ordered his agency to reconsider the historic sage-grouse conservation plans that western stakeholders took years to craft.
These plans, which apply to 11 western states, are a wildly successful example of state engagement and local input. They were endorsed by western governors, conservationists, sportsmen, and many in the agricultural and oil and gas sectors. The plans’ protections were modeled after Wyoming’s own strong sage-grouse conservation measures; they were crafted with the best available science and designed to balance development and wildlife management needs — and to keep the Greater sage-grouse from being listed as a threatened or endangered species. Their approval in 2015 was a resounding success story. And Wyoming citizens know it.
Wyoming Citizens Stand Behind the Plans
Last December, Wyoming citizens turned out in force, along with Governor Matt Mead and other state leaders, to demand that the protections for Wyoming’s sage-grouse remain in place. Senator John Barrasso, too, publicly defended Wyoming’s plan.
The Interior Department listened . . . sort of. The BLM has now released draft amendments for each of the 11 states that signed on to the 2015 conservation plan. The amendments to Wyoming’s plan propose keeping some of our good protections. But taken as a whole, the amendments don’t do enough to ensure that sage-grouse populations across the west will be protected.
As Secretary Zinke must understand, keeping the Greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list goes beyond ensuring smart management only in Wyoming. Protecting the species — and its sagebrush habitat — across the west is essential. But the BLM is drastically reducing habitat protections in eight of the 11 states that are part of the West-wide plan, leaving just three — Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon — to carry the weight of protecting this iconic western species. And several changes in the plan proposed for Wyoming will hurt sage-grouse populations right here.
Tell Secretary Zinke: Honor the Deal!
The Department of Interior is currently taking public comment on its draft amendment for Wyoming. If you’re in Pinedale or Cheyenne next week, please attend a BLM open-house meeting to learn more. The BLM is taking public comment on the proposal right now. Come learn more and ask questions at the open houses next week as we prepare to send our comments in at the beginning of August.
Here are a few key points to make in your comments:
- Without reliable, West-wide measures to address ongoing and increasing threats to the Greater sage-grouse and its habitat, we’re likely to find ourselves right back where we started: facing a listing under the Endangered Species Act. That’s not good for the sage-grouse and it’s not good for westerners.
- Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon should not be the only states responsible for range-wide support of the sage-grouse population. The remaining states must help carry the weight. All 11 states that signed on to the 2015 conservation plan must be accountable for their share of the habitat and bird populations.
- The proposal doesn’t do enough in terms of mitigation. The BLM must do everything in its power to improve habitat that has been lost or degraded due to development.
- The proposal provides for more flexibility for “adaptive management.” Although flexibility might make sense, any departures from the original conservation directives must be transparent and backed by the best available science.
Want to know more? Email WOC policy advocate Mary Flanderka at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for standing up for Wyoming!