• BLM Publishes Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Measures Draft RMP/EIS for Idaho and Southwestern Montana
  • November 15, 2013
  • Law Firm: Holland Hart LLP - Denver Office
  • On November 1, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") and U.S. Forest Service published the Draft Management Plan Amendments and Draft Environmental Impact Statement ("Draft EIS") providing for Greater sage-grouse conservation measures on BLM and Forest Service lands in Idaho and portions of southwestern Montana. Interested individuals and organizations (or entities or companies) may provide comments on the Draft EIS during the 90-day comment period.

    On March 23, 2010, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service determined that listing the Greater sage-grouse as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") was "warranted, but precluded" by higher listing priorities. Pursuant to court settlement, the Fish and Wildlife Service will make a final ESA listing determination by September 2015. To potentially avoid an ESA-listing of the sage-grouse, the BLM and Forest Service are amending their management plans affecting sage-grouse habitat to incorporate sage-grouse conservation measures.

    The Idaho and southwestern Montana Draft EIS would amend 21 BLM resource management plans and eight Forest Service land use plans. The amendments would affect approximately 9.3 million acres of sage-grouse habitat managed by the BLM and 1.9 million acres of sage-grouse habitat on National Forest System land in Idaho and southwestern Montana. The management plan amendments would apply to BLM- and Forest Service-administered lands, and not to private lands.

    The Draft EIS includes six alternatives for managing sage-grouse habitat:

    • Alternative A is the No Action Alternative.
    • Alternative B includes conservation measures from the BLM Sage-Grouse National Technical Team Report.
    • Alternative C includes conservation measures submitted to the BLM by conservation groups.
    • Alternative D includes the Idaho and Southwestern Montana subregional alternative formulated by the BLM and Forest Service.
    • Alternative E is the alternative developed by the Idaho Governor's Office.
    • Alternative F, similar to Alternative C, was derived from comments from various conservation groups.

    BLM and the Forest Service identified Alternatives D and E as co-Preferred Alternatives for purposes of public comment and review.

    Informational public meetings will be held around Idaho and southwestern Montana on the following dates and at the following locations. Specific meeting venues and times can be found on the BLM website.

    January 6, 2014

    Murphy, ID

    January 7, 2014

    Idaho Falls, ID

    January 8, 2014

    Salmon, ID

    January 9, 2014

    Dillon, MT

    January 13, 2014

    Pocatello, ID

    January 14, 2014

    Twin Falls, ID

    January 15, 2014

    Boise, ID

     

    The Draft EIS is available for download on the BLM website.

    Additional Sage-Grouse Updates

    • USGS Sage-Grouse Baseline Report Available. On June 3, 2013, the United States Geological Survey ("USGS") released a report that documents and summarizes several decades of sage-grouse study, including activities, programs, and policies affecting the species' conservation. The BLM and Forest Service likely will consider, among other things, the information in the USGS report during the agencies' sage-grouse conservation planning efforts.

    • Northwest Mining Association Questions Process and Science Behind BLM's National Technical Team Report Recommendations. On May 20, 2013, the Northwest Mining Association ("NWMA") released a report prepared by biologist Megan Maxwell critical of BLM's process for developing and final findings in the National Technical Team Report on sage-grouse released in December 2011. NWMA's report concludes that BLM's team made significant mischaracterization of past research, methodological bias, substantial errors and omissions, lack of independent authorship and peer review, and substantial technical errors. NWMA further criticizes the National Technical Team for failing to place its recommendations within the context of the Endangered Species Act and BLM's Special Status Species Manual. The report questions BLM's reliance on the NTT recommendations as it considers changes to resource management in its regional planning efforts.