OPINION: New rules for sage grouse could mean big changes for Nevada

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Conservation and Sportsmen Organizations Urge Action to Protect Habitat

SUBMITTED BY THE NEVADA CONSERVATION LEAGUE
Today the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) unveiled proposed management regulations for all BLM lands in Nevada within the range of the greater sage-grouse, a bird species once common throughout the Great Basin and an icon of the West.
The regulations would place significant new restrictions on mining, energy

Photo Credit: Jeannie Stafford/USFWS. A greater sage-grouse male struts at a lek (dancing or mating ground) near Bridgeport, CA to attract a mate.
Photo Credit: Jeannie Stafford/USFWS.
A greater sage-grouse male struts at a lek (dancing or mating ground) near Bridgeport, CA to attract a mate.

, power lines, motorized recreation, grazing, and other activities on BLM lands and are an effort to prevent listing of the greater sage-grouse as a threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Protection under the Endangered Species Act would likely lead to much more drastic changes in public land management and would also affect activities on private land that would be subject to review and approval by the Fish and Wildlife Service if they could impact greater sage-grouse. Greater sage-grouse habitat spans over 20 million acres in Nevada. This has a lot of stakeholders nervous as ranching, mining and outdoor recreation could all be dramatically impacted.
“What we really need is a comprehensive and pragmatic approach to conserving sage-grouse habitat to protect the greater sage-grouse while also addressing Nevada’s economic interests,” said Kyle Davis, Policy Director for the Nevada Conservation League. “Nevada needs a commitment from our federal and state leaders to develop a made-in-Nevada solution that will provide Nevadans the assurances we need to preserve sage-grouse habitat and ensure that the state economy continues to prosper.”
Because of population declines over several decades, the Fish & Wildlife Service is on course to make a final decision by fall of 2015 as whether or not to list the species as endangered. The bi-state population of sage-grouse, found in about 500,000 acres of Nevada, was determined to be threatened by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service this past month. There are no guarantees that BLM’s approach will stave off the listing.
“The sagebrush habitats where sage-grouse thrive are strongholds for other iconic wildlife like mule deer, which also are declining throughout the West,” says Eric Petlock of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We need better conservation and management of the best habitats. Sportsmen are a major stakeholder in this effort and have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to conserve habitat benefitting sage-grouse. We’ve got a lot of skin in the game, and we want to see our investment protected. We want a plan in Nevada that adequately meets the conservation challenge we face.”
Even with BLM’s new management proposal, stakeholders are still worried about the potential impacts of an Endangered Species Act listing. “This plan is a step in the right direction, but administrative actions alone may not provide sufficient certainty to prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the greater sage-grouse,” said Davis. “This approach did not prevent the bi-state sage-grouse population from becoming threatened. We need permanent protection for sage-grouse habitat that provides certainty for the species and protects Nevada’s way of life.”
Public comments on the proposed may be submitted until January 29, 2014. Comments may be submitted toblm_nv_ca_sagegrouse_eis_comments@blm.gov.

 

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