For Immediate Release
December 24, 2018
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Bureau of Land Management has shut off public access to parts of its ‘eplanning’ website that houses Final Environmental Impact Statements on greater sage-grouse plan amendments in the midst of a 30-day public comment period. Visitors to the website where the plan amendments are hosted are greeted with a black screen with the message “Federal Government Shutdown: During the Federal government shutdown, no updates will be made to this website except in the case of emergency. For more information, please visit https:///www.doi.gov.” The federal sage grouse plans involve 83 million acres of habitats designated for varying levels of conservation, and the Trump administration is proposing alterations in protection levels for Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, and Oregon.
“The BLM could have simply taken no action and left the weblinks up for the public to access when the government shut down, but instead they took action to block the public from seeing the amendments that are proposed,” said Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project. “The sage grouse plans are the single most significant conservation effort for the entire Bureau of Land Management, and the agency owes it to the public to get these plans right, providing adequate habitat protections based on the science, and to provide the public ample opportunity to participate in the planning process.”
This removal of public access to sage grouse planning documents appears to contradict Department of the Interior’s guidance on website maintenance and availability, posted at https://www.doi.gov/guidance-interior-digital-properties, which states, “Interior websites, including bureau and office-specific websites, will remain online, as permitted by their current contracts and support arrangements.”
“With five different Environmental Impact Statements running to hundreds of pages apiece, with very short 30-day comment periods running simultaneously, both conservation professionals and the general public are being blocked from having meaningful input on the plan amendments,” Molvar added. “The BLM will now need to extend the comment periods so that these plan amendments can have the full public review required by law.”