BLM listens to Wyoming State partners

BLM  5-4-18

The Bureau of Land Management marked a milestone today in the Administration’s effort to better align plans for managing Greater Sage-Grouse habitat on federal lands by publishing a draft environmental impact statement of proposed changes to resource management plans in Wyoming.

The BLM developed the proposed changes in collaboration with the Wyoming Governor, state wildlife managers and other stakeholders to align federal and state plans. State agencies are at the forefront of efforts to maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations, and the BLM is being a better neighbor by ensuring that State partners are being heard.

“We are committed to being a good neighbor and respect the state’s ability to manage wildlife, while recognizing the tremendous investments of effort into improving Greater Sage-Grouse populations over the last decade,” said Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. “We look forward to receiving comments on the draft.”

“I appreciate the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management,” said Wyoming Governor Matt Mead. “They have been available through many meetings and conversations to hear our concerns and work through the process. I will look forward to an opportunity to review these documents and comment, as appropriate, after hearing from people and groups – including the sage grouse implementation team – on their views and thoughts.”

The BLM seeks to improve management alignment in ways that will increase flexibility, maintain access to public resources, and promote conservation outcomes.  The proposed preferred alternative for BLM plans in Wyoming would provide a process for incorporating future iterations of the State’s Core Area maps; remove the sagebrush focal areas (SFAs) designated in the sage-grouse conservation plans adopted in 2015; clarify habitat objective tables in the 2015 plans; clarify noise stipulations within priority habitat management areas; develop a process for “untripping” adaptive management triggers; and adopt the State of Wyoming’s mitigation framework.

“Wyoming is home to more Greater Sage-Grouse than any other state in its range. As we work through the planning process, we take our commitment to the conservation of the bird and its sagebrush steppe habitat seriously while facilitating healthy working rangelands for the American public,” said BLM Wyoming State Director Mary Jo Rugwell.

Two important changes have occurred since the 2015 plans were adopted: First the BLM and the states have had two to three years to invest time and effort into improving sage-grouse habitat, and second, the BLM has received a great deal of feedback from states and others about on-the-ground impacts and outcomes.

The proposed changes build on the 2015 plans, using feedback from States and other partners that found during implementation that the plans did not respond to local needs.

Because of that feedback, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke issued Secretarial Order 3353, Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation and Coordination with Western States, which prompted the Departmental review of the 2015 plans.  He also tasked the BLM with implementing a strategy for Greater Sage-Grouse conservation that is done in partnership with local governments, and in a manner that allows both wildlife and local economies to continue to thrive.

As a result nearly every Governor who actively participated in the Sage-Grouse Task Force asked for changes to their plans.  Now the BLM is publishing six draft plans covering seven States.  The Notices of Availability will appear in Friday’s Federal Register.

The BLM is accepting comments on the entire Draft EIS, as well as the specific planning issues, the cumulative effects analysis, and Priority Habitat Management Area decisions through Aug. 2, 2018.  The most useful comments are specific and contain new information related to the proposed actions.  Comments may be submitted by mail:  BLM – Greater Sage-Grouse EIS, 5353 Yellowstone Road, Cheyenne, WY 82009; or online at https://goo.gl/22jKE2.

Before including an address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in any comments, please bear in mind that an entire comment — including personal identifying information — may be made publicly available at any time.  Requests to withhold personal identifying information from public review can be submitted, but the BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so.  The BLM will not consider anonymous comments.

The BLM will hold public meetings during the public comment period.  Announcements about these meetings will be made by news releases to the media and posting on the project website listed above.  The BLM expects to publish a final EIS and plan amendments by October 2018, one year after publishing the Notice of Intent to begin this planning effort.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $75 billion in sales of goods and services throughout the American economy in fiscal year 2016—more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 372,000 jobs.

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