USDA releases sage grouse management proposal

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service released proposed changes to greater sage grouse management in Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah today.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made the announcement today. The proposed changes attempt to address concerns from state and land users, a press release said. Key changes will loosen up on grazing guidelines and “allow for greater flexibility and local control of conservation and management actions related to sage grouse,” the release says.

“The Forest Service continues to promote our multiple-use mission while ensuring conservation of greater sage grouse habitat,” Perdue said. “We are sharing the stewardship of the lands with western state governors – their extensive participation throughout this process was the key to landscape-scale conservation that aligns our policies and practices across local, state, and federal jurisdictions.”

Greater sage grouse populations have been impacted by a number of threats including the loss of habitat from wildfire and the spread of invasive species like cheatgrass. The USDA’s Forest Service along with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) amended land management plans in 2015, but those plans raised concerns about the economic growth impact and state conservation plans. In response, the USDA embarked on a collaboration between state and local governments, ranchers, universities, non-profit groups, and businesses to attempt to address these concerns.

The Forest Service published the final environmental impact statement in the Federal Register, and the objection period will last 60 days from the date of the publication of the notice of availability. After considering objections, the Forest Service intends to continue the planning process by issuing a final decision document regarding the revised plan amendments in the fall of 2019.

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