Posted 12-6-18, Bureau of Land Management (CHEYENNE) – In keeping with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s commitment to work closely with states to enhance conservation, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and proposed plan amendments addressing Greater Sage-Grouse conservation on public land in Wyoming.

The proposed plan amendments aim to better align BLM resource management plans with state plans for conserving sage-grouse populations, strike a regulatory balance and build greater trust among neighboring interests in Western communities. The proposed amendments and final EISs also addresses the issues remanded to the agency by a March 31, 2017, order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, which determined that the BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it finalized the 2015 Nevada plan.

“We have appreciated the opportunity to work with Governor Mead’s team on a carefully crafted amendment to the 2015 plans,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “We know the successful conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse requires the shared stewardship vision of the states, private citizens, landowners and federal land management agencies including those within the Department of the Interior.”

Bernhardt continued, “With today’s action we have leaned forward to address the various states’ issues, while appropriately ensuring that we will continue to be focused on meaningfully addressing the threats to the Greater Sage-Grouse and making efforts to improve its habitat.”

The BLM developed the changes in collaboration with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, state wildlife managers, and other concerned organizations and individuals, largely through the Western Governors Association’s Sage-Grouse Task Force.

“Having better alignment between state and federal management for the bird is important to the species and the people of Wyoming,” Gov. Mead said. “I thank the Department of the Interior, both locally and nationally, for working with Wyoming throughout this plan amendment process.”

The proposed changes refine the previous management plans adopted in 2015.  Under the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the BLM is required by law to work cooperatively with states on land-use plans and amendments.

“In Wyoming, we have the privilege of working with a variety of concerned stakeholders and communities living close to the land in managing some of the country’s largest intact sagebrush ecosystems,” said BLM Wyoming State Director Mary Jo Rugwell. “We designed the proposed plan amendment to address the remaining concerns of our agency partners and the public. Our shared goals are the successful conservation of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat and ensuring multiple-use access to every American.”

The proposed amendments in Wyoming would adopt the state’s Compensatory Mitigation Framework; clarify objectives for sage-grouse habitat where livestock grazing is also authorized; increase flexibility to grant waivers, exceptions or modifications in energy leasing; and remove the Sagebrush Focal Area designation from more than 1.9 million acres of habitat.  The amendment process also offered an opportunity for the BLM to align its mitigation requirements under FLPMA with those established under Wyoming law.

The BLM has also published Final EISs for lands it manages in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada/northeastern California and Utah.

Publication of the Final EIS and proposed amendments in tomorrow’s Federal Register initiates a 30-day protest period, which will run through January 8, 2019.  The Wyoming Governor also has 60 days to review the proposed amendments for consistency with state and local laws and regulations.  The process will conclude with a Record of Decision (ROD) following resolution of any protests received during the 30-day review period.

Approval of the Final EIS Proposed Plan Amendment would require amendments to 10 current BLM resource management plans: Buffalo, Casper, Cody, Kemmerer, Lander, Newcastle, Pinedale, Rawlins, Green River and Worland.

Anyone who participated in the process for the Wyoming EIS and who has an interest that is or may be adversely affected by the proposed land use plan amendments in the Final EIS will have the opportunity to protest the proposed plan amendments.

The Final EIS is available online at https://goo.gl/22jKE2.  Instructions for filing a protest with the Director of the BLM regarding the Proposed RMPA/Final EIS are found online at https://www.blm.gov/programs/planning-and-nepa/public-participation/filing-a-plan-protest.  All protests must be in writing and mailed to the appropriate address or submitted electronically through the BLM ePlanning project website.  To submit a protest electronically, go to the ePlanning project webpage https://goo.gl/22jKE2 and follow the instructions at the top of the home page.

If submitting a protest in hard copy, it must be mailed to one of the following addresses:

U.S. Postal Service Mail:  BLM Director (210), Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210, P.O Box 71383, Washington, D.C. 20024-1383

Overnight Delivery:  BLM Director (210), Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210,
20 M Street SE, Room 2134LM, Washington, D.C. 20003

Protests submitted electronically by any means other than the ePlanning project website will be invalid unless a protest is also submitted in hard copy.  Protests submitted by fax will also be invalid unless also submitted either through ePlanning project website protest section or in hard copy.

Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personally identifiable information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personally identifiable information – may be made publicly available at any time.  While you can ask the BLM in your comment to withhold your personally identifiable information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.