October 06, 2017

Wyden, Merkley Slam Interior Department’s Attempt to Undermine Local Management of Sage Grouse Lands

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley slammed a decision by the Interior Department to cancel parts of federal sage grouse plans created by local communities to prevent an Endangered Species Act listing of the Greater Sage-grouse.

This week, the administration officially withdrew its application to prevent surface mining on areas with habitat of critical importance to the Greater Sage-grouse. The withdrawal upends years of local collaboration between farmers, ranchers, and state, local and federal officials to establish local land management plans to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list.

“Secretary Zinke’s ill-conceived scheme endangers the livelihoods of local communities that rely on the multiple uses of public lands and blatantly ignores the sound science the Bureau of Land Management used to create the sage grouse plans. Throwing these plans in the trash can undoes years of successful collaboration between local residents and will almost certainly lead to a listing of the sage grouse, locking up federal lands for years to come,” Wyden said. “This is a clear signal from the Secretary of the Interior just how willing he is to put mining companies above the needs and wishes of Oregonians, westerners, and the farmers and ranchers he claims to support. I will keep working with the Oregon communities who rely on access to public lands to fight this spiteful effort to endanger their livelihoods.”

“This decision is an affront to the Oregon ranchers and farmers who have worked collaboratively for years to avoid a sage grouse listing,” said Merkley. “There is no excuse for throwing out their extensive work—and endangering family farms and ranches in the process—just to pad the profits of mining companies.”

Farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, and industry stakeholders spent years developing the current federal sage grouse habitat management plans to prevent an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing of the Greater Sage-grouse. Opening up this land to oil and gas development will almost certainly lead to an ESA listing of this species. A listing would do irrevocable harm to ranchers, conservationists, sportsmen and industry stakeholders in Oregon and the West by creating both uncertainty and potential regulatory actions over the management of local public lands.