Trump’s Interior Secretary Is Overhauling Obama-Era Sage Grouse Protections

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

A 2015 federal sage grouse conservation plan spanning 10 million acres in 10 states will be reviewed and amended, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced Thursday.

The conservation plan constructed under former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Jewell failed to assess how certain federally protected areas would impact people’s livelihoods, according to a BLM notice.

The BLM announced that it would review the 2015 plan in compliance with a court order to prepare Environmental Impact Statements on how regulations will affect people. The BLM wants to work more closely with states to develop another conservation plan.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop welcomed the decision as a chance to correct the federal overreach of prior attempts at sage grouse conservation.

“These withdrawals were never about Sage Grouse conservation. It was all a ploy to assert more federal power, ignore actual data and best science, and diminish the influence and authority of states.” Bishop said in a statement. “Secretary Zinke is developing a better policy through input from states and people on the ground with local knowledge and expertise.”

Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said the review is an opportunity to put more flexibility for industry in “draconian” federal regulations.

“The oil and natural gas measures in the plans were unnecessarily draconian, and disregarded the hundreds of measures that companies have implemented to protect sage grouse,” Sgamma said in a statement. “The plans inflated the impacts from oil and natural gas activities by completely ignoring the technological innovation and best practices implemented over the last decade that have resulted in 70% less habitat fragmentation.”

Center for Biological Diversity Public Lands Director Randi Spivak said the review is an overt attempt by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to cater to the oil and gas industry.

“This move shows Zinke’s total contempt for imperiled species and the places they need to live,” Spivak said in a statement. “Zinke might as well form a shotgun posse to kill off these animals directly. The Trump administration is perfectly willing to wipe out sage grouse, and a host of other species, to reward its industry friends.”

Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger went farther, accusing Zinke of undermining local and state participation in favor of industry executives.

“We all knew Western states would start to feel the heavy hand of oil and gas lobbyists who run the show at Interior,” Saegaer said in a statement. “Now we are seeing a plan that ignores local stakeholders and mirrors every request made by the oil and gas industry.”

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