Feds Join With Western States to Improve Sage Grouse Protections

CARSON CITY, Nev. (CN) – Local agencies in 10 states will have greater influence over federal management plans for the endangered greater sage grouse under a new plan announced Monday.

The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service worked with officials in 10 western states to come up with a modified plan to protect the endangered greater sage grouse population and manage its habitat area.

States and local units opposed an earlier plan created in 2015. Opponents said the plan was too harmful to local communities and would stifle job growth.

This past Friday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered the immediate implementation of the new plan, which promises greater cooperation between the federal government and local units.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt on Monday said, “I agree with Secretary Zinke that the federal government and Nevada can protect the sage grouse and its habitat, while also ensuring that conservation efforts do not undermine job growth and local communities.”

The Interior Department recommends continued collaboration with states and engagement with other interested parties.

“I am particularly interested in assisting the states in setting sage grouse population objectives to improve management of the species,” Zinke said.

The team is “committed to a balanced approach that provides both responsible, economic development and long-term conservation of the greater sage grouse,” the report states.

To accomplish that, the Interior Department modified the greater sage grouse management plan by identifying options to incorporate new habitat into habitat management areas.

That will require working with local units and reasonably modifying management plans as necessary to create a healthful balance between local economic interests and protecting the endangered greater sage grouse.

The new management plan seeks to clarify how ranchers, miners and others might obtain waivers, exceptions or modifications in priority habitat management areas.

The plan also will modify how the federal government approves mineral-leasing and development projects.

States will help the BLM to identify ideal great sage grouse population levels and conserve its habitat.

When making decisions to modify any parts of the management plan, the federal officials will meet with local officials to come up with the best solution for all parties.

The 10 states impacted by the new plan are California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington state and Wyoming.

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