Friday, October 12, 2018

Proposed changes to sage-grouse rules would help drillers

Greater sage grouse
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Jeannie Stafford)
The U.S. Forest Service has proposed changes to the greater sage grouse's conservation plans that would make it easier for oil and gas drillers to develop land in its habitats in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah.

"A sage grouse coordinator with the Forest Service said the goal is to protect habitat while also making more land available to recreation, mining and grazing," Cooper McKim reports for Wyoming Public Radio. But Michael Saul with the Center for Biological Diversity told McKim that the plan will put the bird "on the road to extinction."

The plan would remove sagebrush focal areas, which were recognized in 2015 as habitat critical to the bird's survival, Scott Streater reports for Energy & Environment News. It also says that states and the federal government no longer have to cooperate before approving certain kinds of development.

Greater sage grouse permanent habitat
(map from
The Forest Service proposal dovetails with the Bureau of Land Management's recent plan to allow oil and gas companies to develop on sage-grouse habitat.The two agencies' authority over the same issue may seem confusing, but essentially, the Forest Service can dictate an endangered species' conservation plan (for instance, it can decide which lands will be designated as its habitat). The BLM's plans cover how oil and gas drillers can develop in that designated habitat.

The draft is subject to a 90-day public comment period that runs through Jan. 3.

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