BLM to prepare land use amendment to protect Gunnison’s sage-grouse – The Journal
Public Comment Invited on Rare Bird Conservation Efforts in Southwest Colorado and Southeast Utah
Public input is being sought by the Bureau of Land Management to prepare a management plan amendment and environmental impact statement to protect the threatened Gunnison sage-grouse and its habitat.
The rare bird exists in eight population areas scattered across southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah, and its population is declining. It was listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act in 2014. Fewer than 5,000 birds remain.
A 45-day public scoping period began July 5 to gather feedback on the Colorado Resource Management Plan Amendment and associated Environmental Impact Statement, which will guide the bird’s conservation efforts.
The public can submit comments regarding alternatives, scope, issues, or new information on the BLM ePlanning webpage at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2019031/510.
The BLM will announce the dates for the virtual and in-person public meetings on the webpage.
The land use amendment and EIA will involve evaluating existing BLM resource management plans that intersect with Gunnison sage-grouse habitat in southern Colorado and Utah.
According to the BLM, the process will address actions that could affect the bird, such as mining leasing and development, recreation, livestock grazing management, real estate actions, fire management and restoration actions.
“The BLM will then consider, with the best available science, reasonable alternative approaches to its management strategies,” reads a July 5 BLM press release.
The BLM released a draft plan amendment and impact statement for Gunnison’s sage-grouse in August 2016, but halted the planning effort in 2018 after it was announced that the Fish and Wildlife Service would complete a plan. recovery for grouse.
The Fish and Wildlife Service released the species’ final recovery plan in October 2020, prompting the BLM to resume the effort.
The BLM intends to initiate a consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the management and conservation measures identified during the planning process.
When completed, the amended BLM Resource Management Plan intends to incorporate decisions and actions “to conserve and enhance Gunnison’s sage-grouse habitat into all BLM land use plans with occupied and unoccupied habitat,” as identified by the USFWS 2020 Final Recovery Plan which covers all eight population areas in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah.
“The BLM is committed to working with our partners to best maintain the health and well-being of Gunnison’s sage-grouse populations and their habitat throughout the Southwest,” said the Deputy State Director. of the BLM for Resources, Alan Bittner, in the press release. “We welcome and encourage strong public participation in this process as we consider potential management actions impacting our public lands.”
After the 45-day scoping process, a draft RMP and EIS amendment will be prepared and posted for public comment, followed by a final plan and Record of Decision.