USA -(Ammoland.com)- Following an Interior Department announcement of a “notice of intent” to amend proven conservation plans for the greater sage grouse to enable increased industrial and commercial development in the bird’s habitat, BHA Conservation Director John Gale offered a pointed response:
“The Interior Department’s decision to alter its existing successful approach to sage grouse habitat management subverts the will of a majority of Americans and the needs of the grouse in favor of the interests of the energy industry. Our Western landscapes will be poorer as a result.
“A victory in sage grouse management was achieved two years ago with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision not to list the grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The reason for this decision? Forward-looking, collaborative, science-based sage grouse management plans that balance development with conservation and protect critical areas of sage grouse habitat.
“Ranchers, business owners, local elected officials and sportsmen dedicated untold hours to forging results-oriented sage grouse conservation plans – plans that enable traditional uses of these lands such as grazing and development while also allowing hunting and fishing. Changing this approach now would undermine not only a historic, multi-stakeholder conservation strategy; it also would hurt the Western communities that depend on a strong and growing outdoors-focused economy.
“Sportsmen and other citizens who prize our public lands and waters must speak out loudly and clearly: Changing course in sage grouse management now is a mistake. We must stay the course and responsibly manage our Western sagebrush steppe.”
A poll released in August by BHA demonstrates strong, bipartisan support for existing sage grouse management plans by voters in Western counties with valuable sage grouse habitat.
More than half of voters polled – including 56 percent of hunters and sportsmen – in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Idaho, all key sage grouse states, said they support the plans in place now to protect the sagebrush landscape.
Further, only a fraction of greater sage grouse habitat is capable of producing energy of any kind, now or in the future, with 79 percent of areas with medium to high potential for energy development falling outside of grouse habitat, according to a BHA report released in June.
Across the West, multiple interests have come together to create individually tailored and collaborative conservation plans to benefit sage grouse and build better habitat for more than 350 species of fish and wildlife that inhabit the vast sagebrush steppe.
The Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have called these conservation plans into question, suggesting less-than-optimal alternatives such as captive breeding programs and state-specific population targets.
Both lack scientific support and fail to take into account the years of effort by ranchers, sportsmen and women, industry voices, scientists, states interests and federal agency representatives to conserve this important habitat – an effort that continues to forestall the need to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
Please consider doing two things for BHA and sagebrush country:
Submit your official public comment for the record by visiting BHA’s Action Center. You can also attend a BLM public meeting in your state.
Here are dates and locations:
- California: Friday, Nov. 3: Alturas, CA (5-7 p.m.)
- Colorado: Wednesday, Nov. 8: Craig, CO (5-7 p.m.)
- Idaho: Thursday, Nov. 2: Twin Falls, ID (6:30-8 p.m.), Monday, Nov. 6: Idaho Falls, ID (6:30-8 p.m.), and Tuesday, Nov. 7: Marsing, ID (6:30-8 p.m.)
- Oregon: Tuesday, Nov. 7: Burns, OR (5-8 p.m.)
- Montana: Wednesday, Nov. 8: Billings, MT (4-8 p.m.)
- Nevada: Tuesday, Nov. 7: Reno, NV (4:30-6:30 p.m.), Wednesday, Nov. 8: Elko, NV (4:30-6:30 p.m.), and Thursday, Nov. 9: Ely, NV (4:30-6:30 p.m.)
- Wyoming: Monday, Nov. 6: Cheyenne, WY (4-7 p.m.) and Wednesday, Nov. 8: Pinedale, WY (4-7 p.m.)