The sage grouse implementation team met for the first time since the Department of Interior announced recommendations to a collaborative state and federal Obama era plan. But early last month, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended changes to the plan that would loosen restrictions on energy development while giving states more flexibility in implementing their own sage grouse protection plans.
At the meeting, the team discussed changes they would like to see including fixing discrepancies between the state and federal maps that identify sage grouse lands that can be leased for energy development.
Brian Rutledge, Vice President of the Audubon Society, said the DOI still hasn’t said how states should address changes like the map discrepancy. The department could recommend a local change, which would be simple, or include it in a larger federal plan change, which could take much longer.
“People would like to fix and move on for the most part, rather than go into a multi-year process on something that may end up with something very different than what they intended,” Rutledge said.
The team agreed there’s a lot of uncertainty and little concrete information on how these recommendations will be applied. Bob Budd is chairman of the implementation team.
“I think we’re back in the mode we were in back in ’07,” Budd said. "Because unfortunately, I’m not sure we’re not going to do the whole thing again."
The team agreed there needs to be better communication with the public so false rumors don’t spread about sage grouse plan changes.