Today, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke finally announced his intent to throw out carefully developed, bipartisan Western state sage grouse management plans. Based on the recommendations of Zinke’s handpicked sage grouse review team, we expect the Department’s new plans to mirror the requests made by oil and gas industry lobbyists. If adopted, these changes would upend the bipartisan plans that state stakeholders have spent years carefully crafting.
The New York Times reported on the expected changes last week after information was leaked by sources close to the decision.
Statement by Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project:
“These changes show that once again Secretary Zinke is siding with D.C. lobbyists over Western states. He is throwing out thoughtfully developed, bipartisan plans simply to serve his political agenda.
We all knew Western states would start to feel the heavy hand of oil and gas lobbyists who run the show at Interior. Now we are seeing a plan that ignores local stakeholders and mirrors every request made by the oil and gas industry. By plowing forward, Secretary Zinke is risking the $1 billion recreation economy affiliated with sagebrush habitat.”
The Western Values Project (WVP) released a memo showing the recommendations were a near carbon copy of requests from the oil and gas industry. The analysis found that 13 of the 15 recommendations requested by the oil and gas lobbyists were adopted. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on August 21 by WVP seeking information related to the review recommendations has still gone unfulfilled by the Interior Department. The leaked oil and gas lobby document can be found here. The side-by-side comparison can be found here.
A report released by the Western Values Project found that sagebrush habitat supports over $1 billion in recreation and public access related activities, including hiking and hunting.