Trump administration undermines one of the largest landscape conservation efforts in US history
Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its final proposed changes to the landmark 2015 sage-grouse conservation plans, removing key protective measures and undermining the certainty of those protections that do remain, risking the survival of the iconic sage-grouse and the 350 species the sagebrush ecosystem supports across 11 western states.
The proposed plan amendments and final environmental impact statements (FEIS) released today are the result of a nearly two-year effort by the Trump administration to undermine one of the largest landscape conservation efforts in US history in a quest to make oil and gas development easier in protected habitat, going against overwhelming public support to the original plans.
In response, The Wilderness Society issued the following statement from Nada Culver, Senior Counsel and Director of the BLM Action Center:
“The changes proposed by the BLM deliver a damaging one-two punch - they reduce the lands that are protected and then reduce how strong the remaining protections are. Taken together, the changes upend both the structure and function of the plans, which the US Fish and Wildlife Service relied on as providing sufficiently meaningful, certain protection so that the sage-grouse no longer warranted listing under the Endangered Species Act. Without this certainty, the risk to the plans and to the greater sage-grouse increase, and the sum total of these changes may well be more than the species can bear.”
“And in the Colorado plan, in particular, we’re very concerned about new language giving counties and the oil and gas industry an opportunity to further undermine protections in the most important habitat, effectively removing no surface occupancy stipulations and ceding the authority of both the BLM and the state. This language places unacceptable risk on sage-grouse habitat in Colorado and cannot stand.”
“The administration is also sending a very harsh message as to how little they value the input and dedication of people on the ground, particularly the western stakeholders who spent years undertaking this historic collaboration, only to have much of it tossed aside by an administration that has made a habit of disregarding and even discarding public input.”
The administration has actually been increasing oil and gas leasing in sage-grouse habitat, despite the existing commitments in the 2015 sage-grouse plans to prioritize leasing and drilling outside habitat. Since January 2017, the BLM has offered almost 1.5 million acres in grouse habitat for leasing and managed to sell more than 720,000 acres, with another 2 million acres on the block for auction in March 2019 (see table below).
Alex Thompson, Communications Manager, [email protected], 202-429-3940
The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.