On Thursday, October 5, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the cancellation of its Sagebrush Focal Area withdrawal process, which safeguarded 10 million acres of federal land from mining and mining exploration. The BLM also reported the start of the scoping process for potentially amending current sage-grouse risk management plans.
A little background
In 2015, the Obama administration enacted a federal plan
for the Greater Sage-Grouse’s protection, which set strict land-use policies across the 11-state region of the bird’s habitat. Lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming were temporarily segregated
for studying the impacts of mining on sage-grouse habitats. This was done before a final decision was made on whether to remove these areas from the Mining Law of 1872, which authorizes prospecting and mining in federal lands.
In an effort to relax the previous protection plan, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke requested the implementation of nine recommended actions
regarding the management of sage-grouse, in August of this year. The recommendations
included re-evaluating habitat protections and changing the policy on oil leasing in affected areas.
Upon recent data analysis and review of mining’s effects on sage-grouse habitats, the BLM has canceled
the 10 million-acre Sagebrush Focal Area mineral withdrawal process. According to the BLM, data shows that mining does not threaten sage-grouse significantly; therefore, the 2015 recommendation to remove the areas was considered unreasonable.
The BLM announced that it will publish a Notice of Intent to start the scoping process
to solicit public comment of land management issues that pertain to Greater Sage-Grouse. This initiates a process that may result in amendments to some, all, or none of the risk management plans that address sage-grouse.
Questions about how these changes may impact your site?
Jana White, Senior Ecologist, PhD