The Bureau of Land Management is now taking public comments on newly-published information about its sage grouse management plans. The agency posted these draft supplemental environmental impact statements to the Federal Register on Friday, Feb. 21.
BLM’s 2019 plan amendments opened up more of the iconic bird’s habitat to activities like grazing, mining and energy development. Back in March 2017, the Secretary of the Interior ordered his agencies to review practices “to better balance conservation strategies and policies with the equally legitimate need of creating jobs for hard-working American families.”
The BLM maintains that its revised 2019 sage grouse management aligned federal and state plans while promoting job growth. But an Idaho judge put those BLM plans on hold across much of the West after environmental groups sued the BLM over them. The plaintiffs argue that the BLM is violating the National Environmental Policy Act.
Now, the BLM is responding by publishing more research and background in the form of draft supplemental environmental impact statements, or SEISs.
“The draft SEISs illustrate the hard look and robust analysis we performed in this collaborative process to balance our habitat conservation and enhancement goals in response to recent litigation,” BLM Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond said in a press release.
It’s not certain whether the judge will allow this new information into the court case or whether it would convince the judge to lift his injunction.
Environmental groups don’t think so.
“It really has no hope of satisfying the legal requirements of taking a hard look at direct and cumulative impacts,” said Erik Molvar, the executive of the Western Watersheds Project.
The Western Watersheds Project is one of the environmental groups suing BLM over its plan.
“It’s bizarre that the BLM thinks that it’s going to get away with trying to paper over the deficiencies that have already been recognized by the court system as being violations of federal law,” Molvar said.
The sage grouse is considered an indicator species, meaning its health reflects that of its habitat.
To read or comment on the SEIS for your state, you can find them here. The comment period for these statements runs until April 6.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.