BLM Announces Final Environmental Impact Statement Addressing Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation

 

BOISE, Idaho – In keeping with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s commitment to work closely with states to enhance conservation, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and proposed plan amendments addressing Greater Sage-Grouse conservation on public land in Idaho.
The proposed plan amendments aim to better align BLM resource management plans with state plans for conserving sage-grouse populations, strike a regulatory balance and build greater trust among neighboring interests in Western communities. The proposed amendments and final EISs also addresses the issues remanded to the agency by a March 31, 2017, order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, which determined that the BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it finalized the 2015 Nevada plan.
“We have appreciated the opportunity to work with Governor Otter’s team on a carefully crafted amendment to the 2015 plans,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “We know the successful conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse requires the shared stewardship vision of the states, private citizens, landowners and federal land management agencies including those within the Department of the Interior.”
Bernhardt continued, “With today’s action we have leaned forward to address the various states’ issues, while appropriately ensuring that we will continue to be focused on meaningfully addressing the threats to the Greater Sage-Grouse and making efforts to improve its habitat.”
The BLM developed the changes in collaboration with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, state wildlife managers, and other concerned organizations and individuals, largely through the Western Governors Association’s Sage-Grouse Task Force.
“It is refreshing to have a federal agency willing to listen to the people in Idaho on an issue so important to our state and the West,” Gov. Otter said.  “I appreciate Secretary Zinke’s commitment to upholding our state-based conservation plan for sage-grouse. We worked hard to develop a plan that was based in science and appropriately tailored to address the primary threats in Idaho.”
The proposed changes refine the previous management plans adopted in 2015.  Under the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the BLM is required by law to work cooperatively with states on land-use plans and amendments.
“This plan has garnered wide support from a variety of stakeholders, including private industry, state agencies, and non-profit organizations that recognize the importance of conserving Greater Sage-Grouse while sustaining the multiple uses on BLM lands that are critical to Idaho’s economy,” said Peter Ditton, Acting BLM Idaho State Director.
In Idaho, the proposed amendments would establish buffer distances corresponding to the state’s three types of habitat management areas; remove the Sagebrush Focal Area designation from the 2015 plans; and adjust objectives for grazing allotments that contain or overlap with sagebrush-steppe habitat.  The amendment process also offered an opportunity for the BLM to align its mitigation requirements under FLPMA with those established under Idaho law.
The BLM has also published Final EISs for lands it manages in Colorado, Oregon, Nevada/ northeastern California, Utah and Wyoming.
Publication of the Final EIS and proposed amendments in tomorrow’s Federal Register initiates a 30-day protest period, which will run through January 8, 2019.  The Idaho Governor also has 60 days to review the proposed amendments for consistency with state and local laws and regulations.  The process will conclude with a Record of Decision (ROD) following resolution of any protests received during the 30-day review period.
Approval of BLM’s Idaho Final EIS Proposed Plan Amendment would require amendments to 21 current BLM resource management plans: Bennett Hills/Timmerman Hills, Big Desert, Big Lost, Bruneau, Cascade, Cassia, Challis, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Jarbidge (1988 and 2015 Revision), Kuna, Lemhi, Little Lost-Birch Creek, Magic, Medicine Lodge, Monument, Owyhee, Pocatello, Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Sun Valley and Twin Falls.
Anyone who participated in the process for the Idaho EIS and who has an interest that is or may be adversely affected by the proposed land use plan amendments in the Final EIS will have the opportunity to protest the proposed plan amendments.
The Final EIS is now available online at https://goo.gl/Jd8uVf.  Instructions for filing a protest with the Director of the BLM regarding the Proposed RMPA/Final EIS are found online at https://www.blm.gov/programs/planning-and-nepa/public-participation/filing-a-plan-protest.  All protests must be in writing and mailed to the appropriate address or submitted electronically through the BLM ePlanning project website.  To submit a protest electronically, go to the ePlanning project webpage https://goo.gl/Jd8uVf and follow the instructions at the top of the home page.
If submitting a protest in hard copy, it must be mailed to one of the following addresses:
U.S. Postal Service Mail:  BLM Director (210), Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210, P.O Box 71383, Washington, D.C. 20024-1383
Overnight Delivery:  BLM Director (210), Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210,
20 M Street SE, Room 2134LM, Washington, D.C. 20003
Protests submitted electronically by any means other than the ePlanning project website will be invalid unless a protest is also submitted in hard copy.  Protests submitted by fax will also be invalid unless also submitted either through ePlanning project website protest section or in hard copy.
Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personally identifiable information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personally identifiable information – may be made publicly available at any time.  While you can ask the BLM in your comment to withhold your personally identifiable information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

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