Wyoming Republican Gov. Mark Gordon has issued an executive order (EO) on the greater sage grouse, reupping the state’s efforts to marry conservation objectives and economic activity including energy development.
The order (2019-3) replaces a previous iteration signed by former Republican Gov. Matt Mead. Gordon’s office said the new EO, in broad terms, “streamlines concepts” that are central to sage grouse conservation, and it improves clarity, reasserts existing rights and allows for adaptation as new information emerges.
In narrower terms, the “core area protection strategy” seeks “a nonregulatory approach” in promoting coordination between state agencies and economic stakeholders, of which oil and gas operators comprise a large majority.
The new guidance offers “directives for coordination and agency cooperation, data collection and reporting, and adaptive management,” said Gordon’s office. “Technical directives remain unchanged, including habitat maps and definitions, stipulations for development, and compensatory mitigation requirements.”
The strategy’s directives are a continuation of the mission championed by Mead to intercept a classification for listing the grouse as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Gordon said in April he was reviewing the protection program and seeking public comment, but the program's primary elements and protections would remain unchanged.
In March, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management finalized Obama-era revisions to conserving greater sage grouse habitat in seven western states, in effect easing restrictions for oil and gas leasing.
In 2015, the Obama administration decided to protect the greater sage grouse with public-private conservation programs at the state level. Mead was one of four governors that worked in the preceding years to reach the compromise.