Earlier this month, on May 2, as reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the U.S. Department of the Interior released revised documents formalizing the Trump administration’s push to relax protections for the greater sage grouse in Nevada and 10 other western states.
Lincoln County does not have a lot of sage grouse, mostly north of Pioche, with the largest populations in the 1-80 corridor, from Winnemucca to Elko, etc.
A 90-day comment period, until mid-July, is now underway by the Bureau of Land Management on the revised greater sage grouse plan for Nevada and California.
Connie Simkins of Panaca, secretary of the N4 Grazing Board, commented by telephone that President Donald Trump “has asked the Interior Department to review what the current regulations are and see where changes might be made, and included science into the process of where sage grouse can live, nest, and successfully rear their brood. I’m pleased the Department of the Interior has been told to take another look [and to] include science and include local entities of government.”
In the article, it was noted “six Interior officials said the six draft resource management plan amendments – including one that covers both Nevada and a portion of northeastern California – would give states more flexibility to administer conservation efforts to protect the threatened bird without hindering economic development.”
Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt issued a statement saying, “We are committed to being a good neighbor and respect the states’ ability to manage wildlife, while recognizing the tremendous investments of effort into improving greater sage grouse populations over the last decade.”
The revised management plans would cancel previous plans to ban mining activity, and some cattle grazing, on about 10 million acres of prime bird habitat across the West by designating the land as “sage-grouse focal areas.”
As expected, the release of the plans drew criticism from environmentalists, but praise from Western governors who opposed the sweeping sage grouse protections enacted by the Interior Department in 2015 on 67 million acres.
Simkins noted that in 2015, four federal agencies including the BLM and the state of Nevada, wrote and submitted plans on how to protect the birds. “But the BLM didn’t pay attention to much of any of the others and just used their own, called a “‘preferred alternative.’”
“But now,” she said, “this new review will include the Nevada plan to the point of reasonableness and use science in the study of the management of these birds so they don’t get listed (as an endangered species).”
The Review-Journal article cited efforts by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to rollback the Obama-era sage grouse protections to, as he put it, “better balance conservation strategies and policies with the equally legitimate need for creating jobs for hardworking American families.”
When asked to comment, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV) both said the action by the Interior Department would reverse “the Obama administration’s heavy-handed regulations and return power to the local communities.”
Governor Brian Sandoval, the RJ article said, is looking forward to reviewing the revised conservation blueprint and collaborating with federal officials.
In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to include the sage grouse on the Endangered Species List based partly on the already existing protections and agreements with state and federal agencies.
The article also noted that some experts expressed warnings that weakening the protections could lead to the bird being listed on the Endangered Species List.
Comments from members of the Nevada Democratic delegation were not included in the article.
Written comments can be submitted online at http://goo.gl/kcsF4w or mailed to the Bureau of Land Management, Nevada State Office, Attn: Matthew Magaletti, 1340 Financial Blvd. Reno, NV. 89502