This West Is OUR West

Trump Admin Unshackles the West, Returns Power to the States

PRESS RELEASES

Washington, March 15, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jeff Small | jeff.small@mail.house.gov

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, members of the Western Caucus  issued statements applauding the Department of the Interior (DOI) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for returning power to the States and taking action to overturn the Obama Administration's Greater Sage-Grouse land grab of tens of millions of acres in the West:

Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): "The Obama Administration’s scheme to use the Greater Sage-Grouse to shut down large swaths of land across the West – particularly grazing, oil, gas, and mineral development  – resulted in devastating impacts for local economies. The Obama sage-grouse land grab cost our economy tens of billions of dollars in economic activity and tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. The Greater Sage-Grouse is not endangered or threatened by any reasonable, legally-informed or scientific interpretation of that status. The only reason the sage-grouse is even an issue and the greatest threat to Western communities, is because of politics. The Obama Administration saw the bird's 165 million acre habitat as an opportunity to impose a massive land grab, limit grazing, prevent economic development on federal lands and stop energy production from sources with which they disagreed. I applaud President Trump, Acting Secretary Bernhardt and BLM Deputy Director Steed for collaborating closely with states in this process and taking action to overturn the Obama sage-grouse land grab."      

House Natural Resources Committee Republican Leader Rob Bishop (UT-01): "Sage Grouse these days, similar to the Chicago Cubs, are doing better than fine. For years, state and local conservation efforts and monitoring have verified an increase in the birds’ population and is proof that federal government intervention isn’t the answer to saving a species. Unlike during the Obama administration, which turned a blind eye to local efforts and only seemed to listen to extreme special interest groups, it is now refreshing to have an administration that cares more about species recovery than just controlling more land. It is important we recognize these tremendous local efforts and millions in local taxpayer dollars that states like Utah have provided over the past several years which have paid off in helping this species recover and flourish. Going forward, we should remember the sage grouse example as a collaborative model for state and federal cooperation, and to recognize that species recovery succeeds best when it is done in partnership with states and local wildlife managers."

Executive Vice-Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03): "Any conservation efforts should always keep local needs in mind. I am glad to see the Department of the Interior continue to increase the roles states and local agencies play in keeping the greater sage-grouse delisted from the Endangered Species Act. Colorado has been especially active in protecting the sage-grouse while also respecting the importance of multiple use on our public lands. I look forward to continuing working with the BLM, state and local agencies on this issue."

Chief Regulatory Reform Officer Andy Biggs (AZ-05): "The Obama administration’s sage-grouse management plan was a regulatory disaster that unnecessarily blocked development on millions of acres of Western land.  I applaud the Bureau of Land Management for recognizing that the states, rather than the federal government, should be taking the lead on wildlife issues, and I hope it sets a precedent for future actions from the Department of the Interior."   

Rep. Russ Fulcher (ID-01): "I am happy to see the federal government taking seriously the concerns and suggestions from state and local governments-- and improving their policies based on this feedback. Thank you to Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt for creating this collaborative environment."

The Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management released the following statements:

“Months of close coordination and cooperation with state governments in Wyoming, Nevada, California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Colorado has gone into the development of today’s decision,” said Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “The plans adopted today show that listening to and working with our neighbors at the state and local levels of government is the key to long-term conservation and to ensuring the viability of local communities across the West.” 

“Since the very beginning of this effort, all partners have maintained the need to conserve the sage grouse and avoid the need to list the species as threatened or endangered,” said Brian Steed, BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs. “We also share a commitment to conservation that does not put the West’s communities at risk and which balances between regulation and access.  We believe that the better outcomes for the species under these plans will demonstrate the value of coordinating federal and state authority.”

Background:

Today, the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) returned power to the States and took action to overturn the Obama Administration's Greater Sage-Grouse land grab.

The Obama Administration made amendments to nearly 100 land use plans, imposing a de facto listing of the Greater Sage-Grouse and a massive land grab of tens of millions of acres in order shut down oil, gas, and mineral production as well as grazing.

Today's decisions provide greater flexibility for managing sage-grouse habitat and respond to the particular needs of states, incorporating significant local input in the process. 

Specifically, BLM issued Records of Decision (RODs) today to unwind overly restrictive Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendments implemented by the previous administration. The changes imposed by the Obama Administration limited grazing, prevented responsible energy production and discouraged other activities on massive swaths of federal land. In total, the Obama Administration made amendments and revisions to 98 BLM and U.S. Forest Service land use plans in 11 different Western states. These new regulatory burdens imposed by the previous Administration were significant as the bird’s habitat covers roughly 165 million acres in 11 Western states.

As the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board noted in an August 11, 2017 piece: “The [Obama] land plans all but ban mining and grazing in certain areas, whereas a species listing at least allows some development after onerous conservation or mitigation planning.” We highly recommend you read the full editorial for its concise summation of how the prior Administration’s efforts were misguided on the species conservation level in addition to the economic one.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found in 2015 that a listing of the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was not warranted. The population is far greater today than it has been in recent years thanks mostly to the concerted efforts of several states that implemented, at their own expense, comprehensive sage-grouse recovery plans. The 2015 Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies study of sage-grouse population trends from 1965-2015 found that mating males had increased 63% over the prior two-years; any argument for the species being listed has been dismantled by a steady preponderance of favorable and improving facts on the ground.

Today's decisions and supporting documents are available online HERE.