Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Guidelines issued for sage grouse conservation

Greater sage grouse range (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
The Obama administration last week "finalized guidance documents outlining exactly how federal land managers will implement provisions in sweeping greater sage grouse conservation plans covering 67 million acres in 10 Western states," Scott Streater reports for Greenwire. The plan was designed to keep the sage grouse from being listed as endangered or threatened, while guiding the Bureau of Land Management on conservation measures "that will affect how livestock grazing, oil and natural gas drilling, mining, renewable energy development and other activities are carried out on federal lands across the West."

The guidelines "tell BLM employees who review oil and gas drilling permit applications to start with applications for land outside important sage grouse habitat," reports The Associated Press. "Proposals for drilling on the most sensitive land would be processed last. The guidelines instruct BLM staff to review livestock-grazing permits in the most sensitive areas first, to see if new protections are needed."

Some environmental groups welcomed the plans, while others called them "too flexible, too slow to take effect and too focused on making plans instead of taking measures to save the birds," AP reports. "Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance, an oil and gas industry group, called the priority system arbitrary and said it ignores work companies have done to protect sage grouse." She told AP, “This is another example of draconian federal measures that ignore actual on-the-ground measures that states, counties, landowners and companies are already doing to conserve the species."

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