Sage-grouse Plans Undermined by New Administration

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August 8, 2017
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In a move that shocked no one but nonetheless disappointed many, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke yesterday released the recommendations of his sage-grouse review team: Cut protections immediately where possible and then figure out how to work around the ones we can’t cut. The Trump Administration looked at all the good-faith flexibility of the 2015 Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments (ARMPAs) and tested how far they could bend the rules without getting sued.

Make no mistake: WWP wasn’t thrilled with the 2015 ARMPAs either, and our lawsuit to see them strengthened in accord with the science is still pending. But WWP wanted to see the plans improved and not overturned; our position was that the agencies hadn’t gone far enough creating strict and enforceable plans that would truly save the species.

However, today’s report and the forthcoming processes that will revise the amendments are determined to weaken any provisions that inhibit industry, including proposals to:

  • Narrow the buffer zones that would protect leks from fossil fuel development disturbance;
  • Remove Sagebrush Focal Area restrictions (“SFA” the most important habitat) for fluid mineral operations, and ultimately consider getting rid of SFA altogether;
  • Train staff to weaken grazing Habitat Objectives so that they are not included as terms and conditions of livestock grazing permits in key grouse habitats;
  • Encourage captive breeding of grouse and increased predator killing – which science has proven don’t work – instead of habitat protection which does; and
  • Create the false impression that livestock grazing is good for sage-grouse habitat, when in fact there is no scientific evidence that even light grazing is beneficial..

It’s notable that none of the team members are sage-grouse scientists and the entire review was conducted out of the public eye. Many of the suggested short-term plans are also for closed-door ‘corrections,’ meaning that the public won’t have a chance to weigh in on changes to policies, agreements, or training materials. No transparency, no science, and certainly nothing that would harm extractive industry agendas for our public lands.

We’re furious and sad that this administration seeks to undo even the weak 2015 response to the devastation of the sage-grouse sea and its inhabitants.

We’re also mobilizing the best legal minds and sage-grouse scientists to figure out how to fight back. WWP won’t let sage-grouse slip closer to extinction for the sake of industry profits and a unsustainable future that imperils all of us.

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