Today, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a secretarial order that would potentially disrupt and roll back protections for greater sage grouse populations in the west. The plans were the result of years of hard work by governors and western stakeholders. Emphasizing their investment in the plans, western governors from both parties have repeatedly asked Secretary Zinke for greater inclusion in any consideration of altering the plans and to avoid major revisions. The Wilderness Society’s senior director for agency policy, Nada Culver, said:
“Secretary Zinke’s order is so disruptive because it undermines carefully balanced and negotiated plans against the advice of the stakeholders involved. The plans do not need to be revised, they need to be supported and implemented in good faith by the Department of the Interior. The plans were structured to include flexibility and an ongoing collaboration with the states that are home to the grouse, so any further changes must take into account active partnership with western states, as well as input from the other stakeholders who have put so much time and effort into creating these plans.
“We echo the western governors in noting that these plans do not require wholesale changes. The well-established metrics and measures provided in the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Plans are the most likely to succeed in preventing loss of sage-grouse populations and habitat.
“Starting a review of the plans for managing greater sage grouse with a stated intent to further accommodate oil and gas development ignores the reality that the most critical grouse habitat does not overlap with the highest potential for oil and gas and ignores the consensus reached by state and federal agencies on the building blocks needed to conserve the species. The order could result in dismantling the plans without seriously considering how that would harm sage-grouse and western communities.”