NATIONAL – Ask Forest Service to Amend Greater Sage-Grouse Land Use Plans

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The Forest Service has published a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. This notice initiates the scoping process to solicit public comments on greater sage-grouse land management issues that could warrant land management plan amendments. This process is apparently in conjunction with a similar process occurring on BLM lands. Land management plans for National Forests in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming were amended in September 2015 to incorporate conservation measures to support the continued existence of the greater sage-grouse. New issues have been identified since 2015. The Forest Service intends to work cooperatively with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to address these issues and others to be identified through this scoping process. This notice also identifies the planning rule provisions likely to be directly related, and so applicable, to plan amendments that may be proposed.

Send written comments to Sage-grouse Amendment Comment, USDA Forest Service Intermountain Region, Federal Building, 324 25th Street, Ogden, UT 84401. Comments may also be sent via email to comments-intermtn-regional-office@fs.fed.us, or via facsimile to 801-625-5277. Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received by January 5, 2018.

This is an important opportunity and a key focus for BRC for nearly a decade.  We strongly encourage you to submit comments. You should stress issues/areas in the specific locations that you ride, and review or consult with the issues raised by the affected state, tribal and local governments. We recommend making the following comments that improperly create adverse effects to recreation in the 2015 Sage-Grouse Plans:

  •  OHV and recreational access are tertiary threats, never tied to meaningful harm of grouse or habitat
  •  Travel and recreation restrictions must be based on site-specific and activity-specific science
  •  Recreational routes such as dirt two-tracks or single-track can’t be treated the same as a highway
  •  Current iterations of lek buffers for OHV routes, e.g. 4 miles, are unreasonable and lack scientific basis
  •  Current seasonal restrictions on OHV riding within lek buffers, e.g. March 1-June 30, are irrational
  •  There is no rational basis for 3% disturbance cap
  •  Whatever disturbance cap(s) are created must specify, and justify, inclusion of any recreation activities
  •  A “no net loss” requirement for future projects is unwarranted and unworkable

You should emphasize that the OHV community has long expressed a willingness to partner in reasonable and effective sage-grouse conservation, including reasonable restrictions on human access, such as limiting travel to existing routes, and restricting travel/noise near leks during crepuscular (dawn/dusk) hours. These efforts will be most effective through the existing and extensive state and local efforts, including noteworthy input by experienced biologists and conservation community leaders.

For further information, contact John Shivik at 801-625-5667 or email johnashivik@fs.fed.us. Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

Thanks in advance and, as always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact BRC.

Ric Foster
Public Lands Department Manager
BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext. 2