Yesterday, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke issued a Secretarial Order initiating a 60-day review of the Greater Sage-Grouse conservation plans “to identify plan provisions that may need to be adjusted or rescinded based on the potential for energy and other development on public lands.” The order, along with the Administration’s proposed cuts to funding, puts at risk grouse protection measures on nearly 70 million acres of Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land.
The National Audubon Society was a leader in crafting those conservation plans, working with ranchers, business owners, sportsmen, industry officials, local and state elected officials, outdoor recreation leaders, veterans, conservationists, and their partners in the U.S. government and state governments. And together those partners have invested tens of millions of dollars and years of work into creating and implementing flexible and locally driven sage-grouse conservation plans. These conservation efforts were key factors in helping to prevent the need to list Greater Sage-Grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
The plans were intended to protect habitat that was most important to wildlife and in doing so, create stability for development and other economic activity across the landscape. Audubon is deeply concerned about reviewing plans for habitat protection to determine whether they've placed any burdens on energy development because this review could be the first step toward undoing these plans.
Stakeholders across the west, including western governors,1 are standing behind their work. The Greater Sage-Grouse is an umbrella species of the sagebrush ecosystem, which means efforts to protect it also result in protection for more than 350 other species of wildlife, including these other bird species. In the coming weeks we will be asking Audubon members to raise their voice to demonstrate the ongoing commitment across the west to sage grouse conservation. We are committed to working at the state and national level to ensure this magnificent bird remains protected.
1 Finley, B. (2017, June 4). Battle royale looms as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke mulls overhaul of plans to protect sage grouse habitat. The Denver Post.