The proposed plan amendments aim to better align BLM resource management plans with state plans for conserving sage-grouse populations, strike a regulatory balance and build greater trust among neighboring interests in Western communities.
The proposed amendments and final EIS also addresses the issues remanded to the agency by a March 31, 2017, order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, which determined that the BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it finalized the 2015 Nevada plan.
“We have appreciated the opportunity to work with Governor Herbert’s team on a carefully crafted amendment to the 2015 plans,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “We know the successful conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse requires the shared stewardship vision of the states, private citizens, landowners and federal land management agencies including those within the Department of the Interior.”
Bernhardt continued, “With today’s action we have leaned forward to address the various states’ issues, while appropriately ensuring that we will continue to be focused on meaningfully addressing the threats to the Greater Sage-Grouse and making efforts to improve its habitat.”
The BLM developed the changes in collaboration with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, state wildlife managers, and other concerned organizations and individuals, largely through the Western Governors Association’s Sage-Grouse Task Force.
“This is a great example of federal leaders listening to state leaders, valuing their expertise, and changing their plans based on that input.
Secretary Zinke, Deputy Secretary Bernhardt, and BLM Deputy Director Steed have worked with us to develop plans that support Utah’s ongoing efforts to conserve, enhance, and restore sage-grouse habitats throughout the state,” Gov. Herbert said. “That has not been easy, but it’s the right approach for the species and for the state.”
In Utah, the proposed amendments would add exceptions to the No Surface Occupancy (NSO) stipulation on energy leases in non-habitat areas; allow disturbance or density caps to be exceeded when improved outcomes for habitat are expected to result; clarify the process of identifying “essential habitat” during coal leasing; and remove the Sagebrush Focal Area and General Habitat Management Area designations included in the 2015 plans.
The proposed amendments would also open 14,220 acres of BLM-managed land.