After the U.S. Forest Service released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the proposed amendments to the 2015 sage-grouse habitat conservation plans, Western Values Project’s Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill issued the following statement:
“Time and again the Trump administration has done the bidding of special interests at the expense of the rest of us. Their historic reductions of public land and wildlife habitat protections will hurt our outdoors economy, our western way of life and the species that rely on this habitat.”
“This is just the latest in a long list of decisions by the Trump administration benefitting industry special interests at the expense of wildlife, habitat, hunters, and the rural communities that rely on healthy public lands for their livelihoods.”
Many of the changes at Interior came directly from an oil and gas lobby’s wish-list, which was uncovered by WVP. The U.S. Forest Service followed many of Interior’s revisions to the 2015 plans. The final proposed plans by the Forest Service remove about 160,000 acres of priority habitat from management and 865,000 acres of sage-grouse focal areas. This would be in addition to Interior’s removal of some 9 million acres from the 2015 plans for oil and mining development.
A recent study by the National Audubon Society found that ten-times as many oil and gas acres have been leased in priority sage-grouse habitat under the Trump administration compared to the previous administration. An analysis of the oil and gas leases in sagebrush habitat highlights the top ten corporations that stand to benefit from the overhaul. Over 20 percent of leases in sage-grouse habitat is linked to Bernhardt’s former clients.
The Trump administration is already responsible for the largest reduction of public land protections in U.S. history and opened industrial-scale development in migratory corridors and critical habitat that the administration vowed to maintain and protect.
WVP previously filed suit for sage-grouse related documents that uncovered the oil and gas industry’s influence on the Interior Department during the sage-grouse review, including meetings and comments that have been previously shielded from the public.
The continued erosion of sage-grouse habitat will impact over 350 species that depend on the “big empty” of the sagebrush sea – habitat that drives over $1 billion in economic output each year from outdoor recreation alone.