The Sagebrush Ecosystem Council, appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to try to stop the greater sage grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species act, has accused the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service of creating an action plan that contradicts federal law mandates to manage public lands for multiple use.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide by September 2015 whether the greater sage grouse found in 11 Western states warrant listing.
The draft land use plan and draft environmental impact statement from BLM and the Forest Service would restrict or exclude new mining, renewable energy projects, recreational facilities and more across 60 million acres of public land that is considered sage grouse habitat.
The Associated Press quoted J.J. Goicoechea, chairman of the sagebrush council, as saying, “This appears to be regardless of sage grouse population density, consideration of seasonal habitat requirements or importance of habitat to individual populations. … These proposed actions contradict BLM’s and USFS’s multiple-use mandate.”
The council said the two federal agencies largely ignored the concept of predator control as a means of keeping the grouse population viable, as well as the positive impact on the sagebrush ecosystem that comes from livestock grazing.
The American Exploration and Mining Association reached the same conclusion about the lack of multiple uses contemplated and said the sage grouse listing would do to mining what the spotted owl did to the timber industry in the Northwest — but on steroids.
“BLM and USFS are inappropriately using concerns about a potential listing of the Greater Sage-grouse as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act to assert a need for widespread land use restrictions — including withdrawing over 17 million acres from operation of the U.S. Mining Law,” the association stated.
The mining group also said the agencies’ plans are not based on the best available science and data, the BLM continues to rely on a report that two independent studies have said was based on “flawed science, methodological bias and a lack of reproducibility; mischaracterizes previous research; contains substantial errors and omissions; lacks independent authorship and peer review; includes invalid assumptions and analysis, and inadequate data.”
Like the sagebrush council, the mining group accused the federal land regulators of focusing on man’s use of the sage grouse habitat as a threat to the birds when in fact activities like grazing and mining have relatively minor impact or can even be beneficial.
In fact, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 declares that “the public lands be managed in a manner which recognizes the Nation’s need for domestic sources of minerals, food, timber, and fiber from the public lands including implementation of the Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970.”
The federal land agencies are showing no concern for the welfare of Nevadans who have already been hard hit by the Great Recession.
During an interview with the Elko Daily Free Press, Sen. Dean Heller recounted how he managed, during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, to extract a commitment from Rhea Suh, the nominee for the Fish and Wildlife Service assistant secretary, to work with the state to avoid the listing of the sage grouse.
“I absolutely will commit, if confirmed, to making this a top priority to working across our jurisdictional lines both with the Fish and Wildlife
Services and with the Bureau of Land Management … to approach this enormous problem and to make sure that we have the resources to address it appropriately,” she told Heller.
With federal agencies, such promises are too often written in smoke. — TM