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Wyoming Governor Calls on Feds to Incorporate State Sage Grouse Plans

As part of a governors' consistency review by western states, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead on Thursday lobbied federal regulators to seriously consider state plans for protecting the greater sage grouse. The western states want to avoid an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing for the bird, which could hinder energy development.

Wyoming earlier this year established the nation's largest conservation bank -- and a first for greater sage grouse -- in central Wyoming to provide credits that would allow energy development in other parts of the state (see Daily GPIMarch 19). Last year Mead joined national and regional Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials in signing off on a long-term BLM resource management plan that incorporates the state's plan for protecting the greater sage grouse (see Daily GPIJune 26, 2014).

Mead, and other governors, now are zeroing in on potential land-use revisions proposed by the federal BLM and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) whose land-use plans are undergoing amendments or revisions covering public lands in various states. Those plans are expected to guide management of the federal lands for the next 20 years or longer, and the governors are pushing hard to have individual state issues recognized.

The plans include Wyoming's greater sage grouse amendment ("the 9 Plan"), a similar Utah amendment, and revisions to a Bighorn Basin and Buffalo Resource Management Plan.

"Mead's comments are designed to address inconsistencies with Wyoming's greater sage grouse "core area protection strategy" outlined in a 44-page executive order, which was attached to his letter to the BLM and USFS on Thursday, a spokesperson for the governor said.

"The governor also made several recommendations [to BLM/USFS] in support of maintaining multiple-use and sustained resource management on BLM and USFS managed lands."

Mead's spokesperson told NGI that several other governors have done consistency reviews, too, but he did not have a specific list of which states were included.

The three plans in question "have great significance," Mead told the federal agencies. They are "intricately tied" to local customs, culture and economies, along with the management of state trust lands and other state oversight responsibilities, he said.

"Energy development has been an integrated part of the management area for more than 100 years and it a primary economic driver for the state," Mead said, adding that the energy industry employed 34,500 people in 2014, generating $1 billion in royalties and $2 billion in taxes. "Wyoming is home to proven reserves of oil, natural gas and coal that will guide the state's economy for many years to come."

Mead also stressed his state's work with BLM and USFS over many years to develop "a credible, lasting model for conservation of the greater sage grouse." He contends that the state and its partners have a credible, workable plan that is outlined in his executive order.

The "Greater Sage Grouse Core Area Protection" spells out all of the adverse effects that Wyoming and other western states will experience if the bird is listed under the ESA. It pledges for the state to work with federal and other governmental agencies, private and nongovernmental organizations and others to collect data on the condition of each core population area.

Mead noted that the USFS listing decision is less than two month away, but he said BLM and the Forest Service should not "rush these management plans to the finish line." He urged the federal agencies to evaluate Wyoming's concerns, "discuss those points with my staff, and allocate the necessary time to do so."

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