Sage grouse comment sought
The Bureau of Land Management is beginning a public comment period as it updates its local resource management plans in an effort to better protect the Gunnison sage-grouse.
The agency also has scheduled four public meetings on the matter.
The agency agreed to update the plans under an Interior Department court case agreement with WildEarth Guardians that extended, until Nov. 12, the time the Fish and Wildlife Service has to determine if the bird should be listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Meetings are scheduled for:
■ Aug. 4 at the Denver Marriott West, 1717 Denver West Blvd., Golden;
■ Aug 5 at Fred R. Field Western Heritage Center, Fairgrounds and Multi-Purpose Building, 275 Spruce St., Gunnison;
■ Aug. 6 at the Holiday Inn Express Montrose, 1391 S. Townsend Ave., Montrose;
■ Aug. 7, Dove Creek Community Center, 403 W. 7th St., Dove Creek.
All meetings are at 6 p.m.
More information is available at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/wildlife/sage-grouse.html.
The Gunnison sage-grouse lives in southwest Colorado and southeast Utah. Most of the estimated 5,000 breeding birds live in the Gunnison Basin, with small populations also found in Mesa and other counties.
The BLM says it will incorporate additional conservation measures in up to 11 resource management plans through an environmental impact statement and associated amendment. It expects the EIS to be done by July 2016.
In a news release Friday, WildEarth Guardians said that due to the years the BLM plans update will take to complete, it probably won’t have any effect on the Endangered Species Act decision due in November. Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist for the organization, predicted that a lack of adequate existing regulatory mechanisms make a listing under that act “unavoidable.”
“However, strong, science-based protections in the federal plans would enable threats to be addressed and put the Gunnison sage-grouse on the path to recovery on those public lands, and the recovery of the bird is what will be necessary to lift Endangered Species Act protections,” he said.
Last month, the BLM issued an internal instructional memo guiding management of the bird while the plans update occurs. It includes extension of an existing Colorado moratorium on oil and gas leasing in proposed occupied critical habitat, and expansion of that moratorium into southeast Utah.