BLM Listens to Utah State Partners

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Comments sought on draft proposal to coordinate state and federal conservation efforts  

BLM Press Release

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

The BLM developed the proposed changes in collaboration with the Utah 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 am anxious to find a long-term solution that will allow the sage-grouse to thrive in Utah,” said Utah Governor Gary Herbert. “That is why I am grateful to see leaders at the Department of the Interior working to improve federal sage-grouse land use plans throughout the west. The revised plans will better address localized threats while allowing for the increased flexibility that will ensure the viability of the sage-grouse. I hope that ongoing partnerships and collaboration between state and federal agencies, together with partnerships with private property owners will ensure the successful implementation of this plan.”

“It’s great to have Department of the Interior leadership who understand the importance of allowing state Sage Grouse recovery plans to operate without federal interference,” said House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop. “Originally, The State of Utah was asked to develop a plan to preserve, protect, and encourage Sage Grouse populations. After several years and millions of dollars, Utah presented a workable plan. It should be respected by the federal government if we are serious about protecting this species.”

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 Management Alignment alternative for BLM plans in Utah would modify habitat designations to better align with State’s approach; clarify that habitat objectives only apply to priority habitat management areas; remove sagebrush focal areas (SFAs) designated in the sage-grouse conservation plans adopted in 2015; and match the State’s plan when considering local conditions in determining disturbance caps.

“We are not abandoning the 2015 plans; we are building on them,” said BLM state director Ed Roberson. “In the two and a half years since those plans were adopted, we’ve gotten tremendous feedback from the State on on-the-ground outcomes and impacts that are the basis for proposed changes that recognize the unique nature of sage-grouse presence in Utah.”

The Management Alignment alternative in the Draft EIS for Utah focuses management on Priority habitat management areas and documented corresponding threats to Greater Sage-Grouse populations, while proposing to allow development in priority areas if there is no habitat present.

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, BLM-UT mailing address; or online at https://goo.gl/ywBXSn.

Before including an address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in any comments, please bear in mind that the 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.

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