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BLM: Comments Sought on Draft Proposal to Coordinate State and Federal Conservation Efforts


The Bureau of Land Management marked a milestone today in the Administration’s effort to better align plans for managing Greater Sage-Grouse habitat on federal lands by publishing a draft environmental impact analysis of proposed changes to resource management plans in Nevada and part of California.

The BLM developed the proposed changes in collaboration with the Governors of the two states, state wildlife managers and other stakeholders to align federal and state plans in order to pursue the shared goals of healthy sagebrush-steppe habitat that benefits wildlife and recreation while supporting local economies.

“We are committed to being a good neighbor and respect the states’ ability to manage wildlife, while recognizing the tremendous investments of effort into improving Greater Sage-Grouse populations over the last decade,” said Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. “We look forward to receiving comments on the draft.”

“I look forward to reviewing the draft Environmental Impact Statement and I trust that the Department of the Interior will continue to engage with and value the opinions of the impacted western governors,” Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said. “I am confident we can find success by working together.”

“The Department of the Interior’s proposed changes represent an important step toward returning power back to our local communities, and lifting the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed regulations that have put major restrictions on million acres of land in Nevada and stifled economic opportunities,” said U.S. Senator Dean Heller. “As a long-time proponent of encouraging the federal government to engage with state and local governments on conservation and land use plans, I’m pleased that the administration is listening to these key stakeholders.”

“I would like to thank the Secretary for doing a much-needed revisit of the previous Administration’s policies regarding sage hen habitat,” said Congressman Mark Amodei. “I look forward to hearing back from our stakeholders in Nevada regarding the proposed changes and plan to familiarize myself with this draft and provide further input.”

The BLM seeks to improve management alignment in ways that will increase flexibility, maintain access to public resources, and promote conservation outcomes. The proposed preferred Management Alignment alternative for the draft plans in Nevada and northeastern California would remove the sagebrush focal areas designated in sage-grouse conservation plans adopted in 2015; incorporate Nevada’s 2016 habitat maps and the State’s Habitat Quantification Tool for determining residual impacts; modify the use of lek buffers; clarify the 3 percent disturbance cap; consider exceptions to seasonal timing restrictions for beneficial habitat projects, allow flexibility in using updated science-based habitat boundaries; and references program-level environmental analysis of fuel breaks and rangeland restoration projects.

This draft EIS also addresses the March 2017 U.S. District Court ruling that held the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended, by failing to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the designation of Sagebrush Focal Areas in the Nevada and Northeastern California Greater Sage-Grouse Resource Management Plan Amendment in Nevada.

The proposed changes build on the 2015 plans, using feedback from States and other partners that found during implementation that the plans did not respond to local needs.

“Two important developments have occurred since the 2015 plans were adopted,” said BLM Nevada Associate State Director Marci Todd. “First, we’ve had 2 to 3 years to invest time and effort into improving sage-grouse habitat. Second, we have received a great deal of feedback from our State partners about how the plans are working on the ground and needed changes.”

Because of that feedback, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke issued Secretarial Order 3353, Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation and Coordination with Western States, which prompted the Departmental review of the 2015 plans. He also tasked the BLM with implementing a strategy for Greater Sage-Grouse conservation that is done in partnership with local governments, and in a manner that allows both wildlife and local economies to thrive.

As a result nearly every Governor who actively participated in the Sage-Grouse Task Force asked for changes to their plans. Now the BLM is publishing six draft plans covering seven States. The Notices of Availability will appear in Friday’s Federal Register.

The BLM is accepting comments on the entire Draft EIS, as well as the specific planning issues, the cumulative effects analysis, and Priority Habitat Management Area decisions through Aug. 2, 2018. The most useful comments are specific and contain new information related to the proposed actions. Comments may be submitted by mail: BLM – Greater Sage-Grouse EIS, Nevada State Office, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno, NV 89502; or online at https://goo.gl/uz89cT.

Before including an address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in any comments, please bear in mind that an entire comment — including personal identifying information — may be made publicly available at any time. Requests to withhold personal identifying information from public review can be submitted, but the BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so. The BLM will not consider anonymous comments.

The BLM will hold public meetings during the public comment period. Announcements about these meetings will be made by news releases to the media and posting on the project website listed above. The BLM expects to publish a final EIS and plan amendments by October 2018, once year after publishing the Notice of Intent to begin this planning effort.

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