Having outlined guidelines for balancing sage grouse and economic protections, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Monday said it will conduct a series of eight scoping meetings in Utah Jan. 17-Feb. 1 to gain feedback on an environmental impact statement (EIS).

Last month BLM issued two instructional memorandums (IM) to guide immediate and longer-term conservation actions designed to conserve the greater sage grouse and its sagebrush habitat in 10 western states (see Daily GPI, Dec. 30, 2011). The IMs are supposed to benefit the species while maintaining a “robust” economy in the West, according to BLM.

“The aim of these science-based measures is to maintain and restore flourishing populations of greater sage grouse and sagebrush habitat,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey.

Now BLM in Utah and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are holding the public scoping meetings to identify issues to be addressed in the EIS for the sage grouse conservation measures. Technically, the public scoping began Dec. 9 when BLM published a notice of intent in the Federal Register.

BLM and USFS have identified some preliminary EIS issues, including greater sage grouse habitat management, wildfires, invasive species, rights-of-way, renewable energy development, grazing, off-highway vehicle management and recreation considerations.

The federal agencies reiterated their goal of incorporating consistent objectives and conservation measures into relevant plans by September 2014 as part of the overall deadline for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether to list sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, something states, such as Wyoming, are arguing is unnecessary.

BLM’s IMs build on a series of federal and state initiatives under way to protect the sage grouse while ensuring that energy production and recreational access continue. These programs include Wyoming’s Sage Grouse Initiative, developed under the leadership of Gov. Matt Mead; the BLM’s National Greater Sage Grouse Planning Strategy; and the ongoing implementation of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Comprehensive Strategy.

In early December Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mead held a meeting with representatives from eight western states to discuss efforts to conserve the greater sage grouse (see Daily GPI, Dec. 12, 2011).

The BLM-USFS meetings in Utah are Jan. 17, Price; Jan. 18, Vernal; Jan. 19, Salt Lake City; Jan. 23, Randolph; Jan. 24, Snowville; Jan. 30, Richfield;, Jan. 31, Kanab; and Feb. 1, Cedar City.

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