For Immediate Release
October 5, 2018
DENVER— The Trump administration today proposed cutting Obama-era protections for greater sage grouse on 5 million acres of national forests and grasslands in five western states, including expanding loopholes to allow more oil and gas development in the bird’s habitat. The public has 90 days to comment on the U.S. Forest Service proposal.
“The original plans weren’t aligned with the best available science on sage-grouse habitat, and these proposed revisions stray even further from ensuring that this iconic species has what it needs to survive,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project. “Unfortunately, this administration doesn’t give a whit about the sage grouse and cares more about handing our public lands over to extractive industries.”
The proposed plans cover national forests in Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. The agency’s “preferred alternative” eliminates the strongest protections for greater sage grouse by eliminating “sagebrush focal areas.” The proposal includes removing protection for more than 400,000 acres of important habitat for greater sage grouse in Idaho and more than 100,000 acres in Wyoming.
“We’re really troubled to see the Forest Service following the Bureau of LandManagement’s lead and making it easier to drill, frack and mine on public land,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Everything about the Forest Service’s proposed plan makes it easier to destroy habitat and harder for the sage grouse to survive.”
The Forest Service’s proposal would also lift protections that would have prevented new surface-disturbing oil and gas operations on the highest-priority sagebrush habitats. The plans greatly expand loopholes for allowing surface-disturbing oil and gas development on
all Forest Service sage grouse habitats by increasing opportunities for industry to seek waivers and exemptions from existing restrictions. Exceptions would now be granted by a sole authorized officer rather than requiring unanimous concurrence from a team of experts, and without a prior requirement that exceptions result in a “net conservation gain.”