Photo by Steve Fairbairn, USFWS
The future of more than 50 million acres of Bureau of Land Management Land could include more conservation measures based on plans announced by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell today. When adopted and implemented, the federal plans for managing the conservation of Greater Sage-Grouse could complement the broad number of efforts already underway across the West and highlight a commitment to conservation that is needed from the Interior Department.
“It has been impressive and downright inspiring to see the BLM engaging in true landscape level planning focused on the need for conservation as part of managing public lands,” said Nada Culver, senior director for Agency Policy at The Wilderness Society. “We’ve seen the progress that can be made when you work with local communities, county and state leaders, alongside energy developers and the conservation community. This is about a lot more than the land the grouse (and the mule deer and the pronghorn antelope) call home. This is about our western way of life, our ability to maintain a healthy environment for all wildlife to flourish, and the future of public lands treasured by all Americans.”
This commitment to conservation by the Interior Department has long been needed due to imbalance that has been seen when it comes to energy development and other uses of our land. A recent Wilderness Society report, Open for Business (and not much more) analyzed federal data that shows 90 percent of our public lands are available to oil and gas drillers. At the same time, only 10 percent are set aside for conservation and other values, including habitat for sage-grouse.
In Wyoming, where Secretary Jewell released the plans, 95 percent of BLM lands are currently open to potential leasing, leaving only 5 percent of land for conservation, recreation and other uses. While Interior’s sage-grouse plans will not, unfortunately, directly address this imbalance, they could help put the BLM on the right track to better land management across the West.
“All of us must work together to see that these plans are finalized and implemented,” said Dan Smitherman, Wyoming representative for The Wilderness Society. “While today’s announcement took place in Wyoming the message is clear— we must work together, from one county to another and state to state, to put in place new practices and policies that are guided by science and economic factors. Sage Grouse don’t recognize state borders and we have to continue working with others across the West to protect this iconic species that Lewis and Clark wrote about in their early 1800’s expedition.”
The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 700,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org