WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts expressed concern today about the Bureau of Land Management’s recommendations for changes in the management of sage-grouse habitat on public lands across the West. These recommendations stem from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s order in June that directed an agency review team to assess federal and state conservation efforts that were the result of years of collaborative work by western states, federal land management agencies, and public lands users, and were supported by the majority of residents in counties with sage-grouse habitat.
The greater sage-grouse is an indicator species for the overall health of the West’s sagebrush region, which stretches across 11 states—the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, and parts of Oregon, Washington, California, and Colorado. Because the health of sage-grouse habitat is linked to the vibrancy of 350 other species of wildlife, safeguarding this habitat is good for more than just the sage-grouse.
Ken Rait, who directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ America’s western lands initiative, issued the following statement:
“The BLM’s proposed recommendations could undermine landmark science-based sage-grouse policy, which has provided a common-sense balance between habitat conservation and energy development across the American west. The 2015 sage-grouse management plans were developed in partnership with multiple states and federal agencies. This review has created uncertainty where none existed. The Pew Charitable Trusts is deeply concerned about the implementation of any recommendations that depart from the science-based habitat management set forth in the 2015 sage grouse management plans.
“In 2015, the BLM created sage-grouse management plans through a multiyear public process, and a majority—some 60 percent—of westerners who live in areas where there are sage-grouse support the plans.
“The recommendations do recognize the flexibility in the 2015 plans that allow for responsible energy development consistent with Trump administration priorities, while also maintaining conservation of important habitat, but Pew is concerned about management reprioritization that puts energy development above scientifically-based habitat conservation. How effective revisions will be at preserving the habitat will rest in the details of their implementation.
“The 2015 sage-grouse habitat conservation plans support rural western economies to the tune of more than a billion dollars annually and provide habitat for more than 350 species that depend on healthy sagebrush lands, including pronghorns, elk, antelopes, and golden eagles. While slight modifications may be warranted, the underlying integrity of the plans should be maintained.
“We encourage the administration to balance the needs of conservation, recreation, and development, and, in consultation with the diverse and historic coalition that worked to develop the earlier plans, retain the science-based compromises tailored to individual states that are embodied in the 2015 management plans. Pew looks forward to continuing to advance such science-based, balanced measures, which allow for conservation of sage-grouse habitat on western public lands and meet the needs of local communities.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at www.pewtrusts.org.