Western Caucus Members Laud Secretarial Review of Sage-Grouse Management Plans
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul A. Gosar D.D.S. (AZ-04), Executive Vice-Chairman Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03) and Western Caucus members GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Rep. Paul Cook (CA-08), Rep. Greg Walden (OR-02), Rep. Kristi Noem (SD-At Large), Rep. Raúl Labrador (ID-01) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO-05) issued the following statements in response to Department of the Interior Secretary Zinke’s Order calling for a 60-day review of Greater Sage-Grouse policies:
“I applaud Secretary Zinke for making Sage-Grouse management reform a priority and taking action to ensure coordination with local stakeholders on federal land management policies, something the Obama Administration failed to grasp. Western Caucus members look forward to working with the Secretary and working group as the Sage-Grouse review moves forward,” said Chairman Gosar. “The Department should unwind overly restrictive and job-killing changes to land use plans made by the Obama Administration. Additionally, less than 0.1% of actual sage grouse habitat exists in the proposed 10 million acre withdrawal area. This political attack on affordable American energy is not based on science and should be completely scrapped as a result. It’s high time for the misguided and out-of-touch Obama Sage-Grouse management plans to fly the coop.”
Congressman Tipton said, “I am encouraged by Secretary Zinke’s commitment to engaging states and local communities in sage grouse preservation efforts. Biologists and other experts have stated time and again that the most effective species preservation efforts are locally-tailored and take into consideration the unique ecology and topography of the region in which the habitat occurs. I am pleased to see action out of Interior that will reverse the one-size-fits-all approach that jeopardized the ongoing work being done in states to preserve and recover the species.”
“Congress has made Sage-Grouse recovery a priority by providing millions of dollars in funding assistance. However, the adoption of a 10 million acre mineral withdrawal would be devastating for many, especially in rural communities,” said Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers. “I’m pleased to see Secretary Zinke moving forward in reevaluating current policy that targets our small communities and our farmers and ranchers. While we work to protect the Sage-Grouse, any decision that is made should be done with state and local input so that our public lands policies work for everyone. I believe it is possible to protect endangered species while also allowing an economy to thrive.”
Congressman Cook remarked, “I welcome Secretary Zinke’s much-needed call to review Sage-Grouse policies. The bird is not endangered and we need to stop putting the supposed needs of this bird ahead of the real needs of people, our local economies, and our national security. I look forward to continuing to work with the Department of Interior as the Sage-Grouse review process moves forward.”
“I am pleased to see Secretary Zinke order this review and direct the agencies to work more closely with communities in Oregon and across the West to determine a better path forward for the Sage-Grouse plans,” stated Congressman Walden. “Over the last few years, I’ve heard concerns from ranchers and community leaders about the impacts of onerous grazing provisions and mineral withdrawals on local economies. Unfortunately, these concerns were largely ignored in the final Sage-Grouse plans. Ranchers and private landowners in eastern Oregon are doing great cooperative work to help sage grouse and have valuable firsthand knowledge that can improve federal land management. I am encouraged that Secretary Zinke wants to involve and listen to local input in this review to determine how to move forward in a way that doesn't put our rural communities out of business."
“While the Obama Administration concluded that listing the Sage-Grouse as an endangered species was unwarranted, they pushed forward with a massive, 10-million-acre land grab,” said Congresswoman Noem. “I commend Secretary Zinke and the Trump Administration for taking a second look at this unnecessarily restrictive Obama-era action. A healthy Sage-Grouse population and habitat is achievable without big-government takeovers that compromise South Dakota’s economy.”
Congressman Labrador remarked, “I applaud Secretary Zinke for bringing common sense to this very important issue for Idaho. I strongly opposed the Obama Administration’s restrictions on land use because of their potentially disastrous impact on Idaho’s economy, and I’m pleased the Trump Administration has taken a new approach that will better incorporate the concerns of Western stakeholders. When it comes to responsible land use, the best decisions are made by those closest to the ground, and that’s especially true in Idaho. Secretary Zinke’s Secretarial Order is a smart and necessary action that will protect Idaho jobs and our economic future. I look forward to continuing to work with the Secretary, my colleagues, and Idaho stakeholders on a long-term solution.”
“In an unsurprising instance of executive overreach, the previous Administration contradicted its own regulations regarding endangered species in order to prevent responsible energy production and grazing in the West,” said Congressman Lamborn. “I would like to thank Secretary Zinke for agreeing to review the Sage-Grouse conservation plan, and I am confident that this Secretarial Order will restore American jobs and consistency between state and federal regulations.”
This week Secretary Zinke signed Secretarial Order (SO) 3353 calling for a 60-day review of Greater Sage-Grouse conservation policies and cooperation with Western States.
Courtesy of the Department of the Interior
In signing Secretarial Order 3353, Secretary Zinke established an internal review team that will evaluate both Federal Sage Grouse plans and state plans and programs to ensure they are complementary. As the team explores possible plan modifications, it will also consider local economic growth and job creation.
In September 2015, the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture finalized the Greater Sage-Grouse plans, which included amendments and revisions to 98 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service land use plans in 11 Western states. The plans were cited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as a key reason for its decision that the Greater Sage-Grouse did not merit protection under the Endangered Species Act. Protection under the act could potentially stifle economic development across large areas of the American West where more than half of Sage-Grouse habitat is on public lands managed by the BLM and the Forest Service.
The Secretary has asked this interagency team of experts from the BLM, FWS, and U.S. Geological Survey to focus on addressing the principal threats to rangeland health and Sage-Grouse habitat—invasive grasses and wildland fire. The team will also consider creative approaches and ideas, including a captive breeding program, setting population targets by state, and opportunities to improve state involvement.
The team will examine the plans in light of policies set forth in Secretarial Order 3349, American Energy Independence. To this end, the team will be asked to identify plan provisions that may need to be adjusted or rescinded based on the potential for energy and other development on public lands.
Courtesy of the Congressional Western Caucus:
The Department of Interior under the Obama Administration found in 2015 that a listing of the Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was not warranted. However, the agency unilaterally chose to implement a de facto listing through overly restrictive Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendments and Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) Amendments. These RMPs and LRMPs are in many cases more restrictive than a critical habitat designation would be under an ESA listing and sought to prevent responsible mineral production, grazing and other activities across 11 Western states. Further, the Obama Administration proposed to withdraw 10 million acres of the bird’s habitat from future mining activity. More than 7,000 active claims were present within the withdrawal area. This misguided action has already killed jobs and caused severe economic losses for Western states. The proposed withdrawal is an attack on American energy as less than 0.1% or 171,000 acres of actual sage grouse habitat exists in the 10 million acre withdrawal area and the bird is not threatened or endangered.
Courtesy of the National Mining Association:
A September 2015 status review conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) “determined that the greater sage-grouse remains relatively abundant and well-distributed across the species’ 173-million acre range and does not face the risk of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.” Shortly thereafter, “the USFWS determined that protection for the greater sage-grouse under the ESA is no longer warranted and withdrew the species from the candidate species list on October 2, 2015 (80 FR 59857).” It remains undisputed that wildfire and invasive species are the primary threats to Sage-Grouse throughout its range. “Within the proposed withdrawal area, 1.55 million acres (or nearly 16%) of vegetation has burned in the last 15 years.” The 10 million acre mineral withdrawal would be the largest ever in the history of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and comes at a time when new mining operations are already either restricted or banned on more than half of all federally owned public lands. The mineral withdrawal is not necessary to conserve Sage-Grouse or their habitat. Mining is not a major threat to Sage-Grouse or their habitat. The withdrawal of 9,949,448 acres of federal lands under the Proposed Action would reduce the estimated number of future mines to three mines in the six-state area, which represents an 88 percent reduction from the 26 mines estimated under the No Action Alternative. “Projected total annual economic output from potential mines in the socioeconomic analysis area ranges from nearly $845 million under the No Action Alternative to approximately $151 million under the Proposed Action. Projected total employment ranges from approximately 2,031 jobs under the No Action Alternative to about 326 jobs under the Proposed Action. Projected annual labor earnings range from approximately $141 million under the No Action Alternative to about $24 million under the Proposed Action. Projected tax revenues range from about $27 million per year under the No Action Alternative to less than $5 million per year under the Proposed Action.
Courtesy of the Western Governors Association:
Western Governors from affected states have submitted Consistency Reviews to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service on the federal agencies’ Greater Sage-Grouse proposed management plans. In their comments, the governors identify inconsistencies between federal plans and state and local government plans, policies or programs. They also recommend solutions for resolving those inconsistencies. Topics that the governors frequently commented on in their reviews included no-surface-occupancy requirements, sagebrush focal areas, lek buffers and disturbance, livestock grazing, mineral withdrawals and mitigation. A recent report shows that greater sage-grouse population in the West has grown by nearly two-thirds since 2013. Read the report by Phil Taylor of E&E News. The Western Governors have engaged their states in extensive greater sage-grouse conservation efforts. Learn more about the recent conservation policy actions from the governors here. The Western Governors released the 2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory, highlighting the effective conservation work undertaken by public, private and non-governmental groups during the past year across the 11-state range of the Greater Sage-Grouse. Find the report here.