Two years ago today, history was made when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the greater sage-grouse did not warrant a listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to the finalization of strong, science-based Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land management plans.
Those plans were the product of collaboration amongst stakeholders including ranchers, governors, conservationists, sportsmen and sportswomen, local elected officials, and industry officials. They were a promise to work together in keeping with the tradition of working the land, by maintaining responsible and sustainable methods to keep the sage-grouse from needing a listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Two years later, the future of the plans is now unknown. In an attempt to dismantle the plans, Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Department of the Interior (DOI) have decided that the West does not know what’s best and therefore have intervened to inject their own agenda is these already established plans. Their agenda pushes the interests of the oil and gas industry, and a few select members of Congress who are determined to have energy development dominate our public lands.
Secretary Zinke’s proposed changes would be devastating, it would harm the $1 billion outdoor recreation economy on sage-grouse habitat and endanger not just the sage-grouse, but the other iconic species like mule deer, elk, and pronghorn that depend on a health sagebrush ecosystem.
Instead of ignoring years of hard work and collaboration, Secretary Zinke should recognize the stakeholders who worked for years on these plans, not ignore them in favor of oil and gas lobbyists. Rehashing existing plans and starting from zero is another half ditch attempt by Washington to overstep its bounds. Secretary Zinke and DOI are even ignoring the advice of western wildlife managers and scientist, who have made clear that the plans do not need major changes.
But Secretary Zinke is only focused on serving himself and corporate special interests.
As Westerners celebrate this two-year anniversary, their message to Secretary Zinke is loud and clear: stop attempting to destroy years of hard work, instead support the plans.