NWF: Opening Up Sage-Grouse Plans Threatens Bird, Western Lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The decision by the Interior Department to throw open the greater sage-grouse conservation plans threatens years of hard work, a signature Western species and a one-of-a-kind landscape, the National Wildlife Federation said.

Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, released the following statement about Interior’s intention to ask for comments to redo the 2015 plans, written by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service with input from states:

“In 2015, the finding that the greater sage-grouse didn’t need to be placed on the endangered species list was the result of a collaborative, hard-forged deal and was supposed to be the start of one of our country’s largest-ever conservation efforts. Now, over the objections of Western governors, the Interior Department is considering opening up the conservation plans that resulted from compromise and collaboration by Westerners from across the political spectrum.

“But in the West, a deal is a deal and a handshake still matters. Interior needs to uphold its end of the bargain and listen to Western governors and their constituents when they say wholesale changes to the sage-grouse plans aren’t necessary. It’s time to implement these plans on the ground, not revisit them, to save the bird and the sagebrush country that sustains more than 350 species as well our outdoor and sporting heritage,” O’Mara added.

Affiliates of the National Wildlife Federation said:

“We hope that Interior Secretary Zinke, as a Westerner, appreciates the significance of sportsmen, ranchers, elected officials and business representatives coming together to forge a compromise on two of the region’s most contentious issues – public lands management and greater sage grouse conservation. Coloradans, including Gov. John Hickenlooper and dozens of conservation organizations, who supported the state and federal plans to save greater sage-grouse and its habitat expect their hard work and practical solutions to be respected. Our wildlife and Western lands depend on it.” ~ Suzanne O’Neill, executive director, Colorado Wildlife Federation

“There’s no good reason that two years after everything seemed ready to move forward on saving the greater sage-grouse, we’re looking at the undermining of the land use management plans the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service put together in collaboration with Gov. Brian Sandoval and local stakeholders. Westerners from 10 states, including sportsmen, ranchers and rural community members, put a lot of time and effort into reaching common ground on sage-grouse. It’s time to get serious about saving the bird and the other wildlife of the sagebrush steppe. We need to start implementing these plans now because time is short.” ~ Robert Gaudet, president, Nevada Wildlife Federation

“Two years ago, the work of thousands of Westerners came to fruition when sage-grouse were not listed under the Endangered Species Act. That hard work has brought together Montanans of all stripes to find common ground on contentious public land management issues. We strongly support Gov. Steve Bullock's efforts to keep the federal and state plans in place, while making strategic changes that don't upend over 10 years’ worth of work by people around the West.” ~ Dave Chadwick, executive director, Montana Wildlife Federation 

“Under the leadership of Gov. Matt Mead, Wyomingites of all stripes came to the table and worked together to develop balanced management plans to conserve greater sage-grouse and their habitat. Now, this state-based solution in partnership with federal land managers is being trumped by Washington D.C. By not giving these plans a chance to work, Washington is ignoring the hard work of so many in our state as well as putting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision not to list the bird in jeopardy. These plans were crafted through the largest collaborative conservation effort in American history and they deserve to be implemented.” ~ Joy Bannon, Wyoming Wildlife Federation field director and member of the Wyoming Sage Grouse Implementation Team"

“Even as Secretary Ryan Zinke complains of top-down schemes imposed on the West, he and his hand-picked team would be serving special interests in Washington, D.C., by gutting plans that were driven by local stakeholders and by science. Tossing out the years of work by grassroots networks that produced the conservation plans is bad policy.” ~ Brian Brooks, executive director, Idaho Wildlife Federation

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