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Ohio Utica Shale

BLM rolls out meetings on greater sage grouse, drilling

By Bob Downing Published: August 21, 2014

From Western conservation groupson Wednesday:

Conservationists Praise Federal “Roll-Up” Meetings as Critical Step toward Protecting the Greater Sage-grouse, Western Economies

 

Polling Shows Interior Department Efforts Have Broad Support Among Westerners

 

PORTLAND, OR (August 20, 2014) - Conservation groups today praised the leadership of the Interior Department for convening the first of a series of meetings of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with other federal and state agencies this week in Portland, Oregon.

 

“These roll-up meetings are BLM’s next best opportunity to protect the sage-grouse and hundreds of other species across the interior West, including mule deer, antelope, and golden eagles,” said Ken Rait,Director, U.S. Public Lands Program for The Pew Charitable Trusts. “The public across the interior West and leading sage-grouse scientists agree that BLM must step up and get it right. As the nation’s largest manager of sage-grouse habitat, BLM must exert the leadership that westerners and leading scientists are demanding.”

Dubbed a “roll-up” meeting by the BLM in a July 16 internal memo obtained by the conservation groups, the Portland meeting is the first of several. The meetings are intended for BLM to assess draft plans that agency staff are developing to balance energy development and the needs of local communities on BLM-managed public land with conservation of vital Greater sage grouse habitat across 11 Western states.

The roll-up meetings are just one way that U.S. Department of the Interior has set out on an unprecedented path to halt the decline and aid in the recovery of this distinctive American bird and its ecosystem. At the same time, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has challenged the states to develop meaningful plans for conserving Greater sage-grouse habitat on state and private lands. All but 1 of the 11 affected state governments have begun the development of conservation plans with guidance and input from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Wyomingand Montanaare serving as role models.

“What’s needed now is continued out-of-the box thinking in all the states and the recognition of the importance of what we’re all working on,” said Brian Rutledge, VP of the National Audubon Society, “It isn’t just about this bird, though it has been an important ’canary-in-the-coal mine‘ for us all, but about the preservation of an iconic landscape, a way of life, and the willingness to work towards the greater good.”

The need for action is immediate as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will make its court-mandated Endangered Species Act listing determination for the bird in September 2015.

“Interior must be a good partner to the states, and engage affected stakeholders like sportsmen, outfitters and outdoor dependent businesses to ensure that across the 11 state region, their plans are robust, consistent, thorough and flexible. I hope Interior and BLM will also meet with their state partners to compare notes and share input, as state and private lands also make up a significant portion of priority Greater sage-grouse habitat in the West,” said Ross Lane with the Western Values Project. “The future of the Greater sage-grouse, as well as big game habitat and Western economies, depend on this collaboration for conservation.”

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