Wilderness Society honors BLM efforts at conservation

Three Bureau of Land Management undertakings in western Colorado have earned recognition from The Wilderness Society, including one involving the Gunnison sage grouse, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week proposed for listing as a federally endangered species.

The conservation group on Thursday announced its annual CAPE (Comparative Analysis of Particular Excellence) awards. It honors what the group considers to be the BLM’s greatest 2012 achievements in conservation on Western lands.

The awards are ranked in order of significance, and coming in fourth was the BLM’s Gunnison Field Office and the BLM’s Southwest District resource adviser, Samantha Staley.

They were honored for what The Wilderness Society called their “out of the box” approach to Gunnison sage grouse management through the cooperative community development of a conservation agreement for the bird, found in the Gunnison River Basin and Utah.

Ranking eighth was Uncompahgre Field Office manager Barb Sharrow’s use of a web page to post information on the office’s inventorying of lands with wilderness characteristics.

The Wilderness Society said that bolsters public participation in the land use planning process.

Coming in 10th was the BLM’s finalized proposal to significantly downsize the amount of land available in northwest Colorado and in Utah and Wyoming for potential oil shale development.

That award specifically honored Mike Nedd, assistant director of realty and minerals management in the BLM’s national office.

The Wilderness Society’s top award recognized the BLM’s final solar energy plan that identifies suitable places for solar projects in Colorado and other states. The group said the plan balances conservation and development.

Nada Culver, the group’s senior director of agency policy, said this year’s awards “recognize efforts that will have lasting impacts for generations to come.”

Shannon Borders, a BLM spokeswoman based in Montrose, said the agency appreciates all its partners, and “any time they recognize us for our sound management practices, we appreciate that.”

Staley said getting an award is exciting and speaks to the spirit of the process involved for an animal being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

This may be one of the earliest instances of such a collaborative approach from numerous stakeholders, rather than what can be a more top-down process, she said.

“In this case the demand was really coming from the local community, saying what are we going to do next,” she said.

Ranchers, recreationists, local governments and environmental groups were among those who joined federal agencies and others in drawing up the plan.

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