December 19, 2018

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BLM PROPOSES INCREASED FLEXIBILITY AND ACCESS IN SAGE-GROUSE PLANS

Dec 6, 2018 |

Proposed amendments would align conservation efforts at state and federal levels

PORTLAND, Ore. – In keeping with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s commitment to work closely with states to enhance conservation, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and proposed plan amendments addressing Greater Sage-Grouse conservation on public land in Oregon.

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 trust among neighboring interests in Western communities.  The proposed amendments and final EISs 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 Brown’s team on a carefully crafted amendment to the 2015 plan,” 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 sates’ 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 plan changes in cooperation with Oregon Governor Kate Brown, state wildlife managers, and other concerned organizations and individuals, largely through the Western Governors Association’s Sage-Grouse Task Force.

“Collaboration is hard work, and I appreciate the efforts by our stakeholders, state agencies and the Department of the Interior to craft an agreement to protect the sage grouse,” Gov. Brown said.  “Balancing sage grouse habitat protection and economic development requires mitigation of negative impacts.  This agreement is a critical step that marks a shift away from planning toward active conservation and landscape management to protect this iconic species. Oregon’s bounty is beautiful and worth continuing to protect and fight for.”

“Throughout this process we've worked with Governor Brown and the affected counties in identifying a targeted plan amendment that simultaneously deals with threats to Greater Sage-Grouse and opens approximately 22,000 acres to livestock grazing,” said Chris McAlear, BLM Oregon/Washington Acting State Director.  

The proposed changes refine the previous management plans adopted in 2015.  Under the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the BLM is required by law to work cooperatively with states on land-use plans and amendments.

In Oregon, the proposed amendments focus on continuing to make public lands designated as Research Natural Areas (RNA) available for livestock grazing.  Seventeen permittees currently use parts of 13 RNAs in southeast Oregon, with an estimated annual direct economic impact of $30,000 to the ranches.  The amendment process also offers an opportunity for the BLM to align its mitigation requirements under FLPMA with those established under Oregon law.

The BLM has also published Final EISs for lands it manages in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and northeastern California, Utah and Wyoming.

Publication of the Final EIS and proposed amendments in tomorrow’s Federal Register initiates a 30-day protest period, which will run through January 8, 2019.  The Oregon Governor also has 60 days to review the proposed amendments for consistency with state and local laws and regulations.  The process will conclude with a Record of Decision following resolution of any protests received during the 30-day review period.

Approval of the Final EIS Proposed Plan Amendment would require amendments to eight current BLM resource management plans: Andrews, Baker, Brothers/LaPine, Lakeview, Southeastern Oregon, Steens, Three Rivers, and Upper Deschutes.

Anyone who participated in the process for the 2018 Oregon Greater Sage-Grouse EIS and who has an interest that is or may be adversely affected by the proposed land use plan amendments in the Final EIS will have the opportunity to protest the proposed plan amendments.

The Final EIS is now available online at https://goo.gl/4CNtH8.  Instructions for filing a protest with the Director of the BLM regarding the Proposed RMPA/Final EIS are found online at https://www.blm.gov/programs/planning-and-nepa/public-participation/filing-a-plan-protest.  All protests must be in writing and mailed to the appropriate address or submitted electronically through the BLM ePlanning project website.  To submit a protest electronically, go to the ePlanning project webpage https://goo.gl/4CNtH8 and follow the instructions at the top of the home page.

If submitting a protest in hard copy, it must be mailed to one of the following addresses:

U.S. Postal Service Mail:  BLM Director (210), Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210, P.O Box 71383, Washington, D.C. 20024-1383

Overnight Delivery:  BLM Director (210), Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210,
20 M Street SE, Room 2134LM, Washington, D.C. 20003

Protests submitted electronically by any means other than the ePlanning project website will be invalid unless a protest is also submitted in hard copy.  Protests submitted by fax will also be invalid unless also submitted either through ePlanning project website protest section or in hard copy.

Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personally identifiable information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personally identifiable information – may be made publicly available at any time.  While you can ask the BLM in your comment to withhold your personally identifiable information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

-BLM-

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $96 billion in sales of goods and services throughout the American economy in fiscal year 2017. These activities supported more than 468,000 jobs.

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