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Wyoming Stock Growers Comment on Feds’ New Sage Grouse Plan

Nov 17, 2017 | by William Perry Pendley

DENVER, CO.  A Wyoming nonprofit association that began in 1872 and represents over 1,000 livestock producers filed its comments today regarding federal officials’ notice of intent to change the management of federal lands in Wyoming and to change an earlier policy that extorted actions of third parties who use those lands, ostensibly all to aid the greater sage grouse.  In October of 2015, with Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) as its attorney, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) filed a petition in Wyoming federal district court and named federal departments and agencies, starting with the Department of the Interior, and its top officials.  Though the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declined to list the greater sage grouse as endangered or threatened in Wyoming or elsewhere, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service, which manage acreage in the Mountain West for “multiple use” purposes, including livestock grazing, adopted new plans as to how those lands are to be managed.  Wyoming ranchers assert the plans will constrain use of those lands and violate federal law because they are arbitrary and capricious.  On June 7, 2017, Secretary Ryan Zinke directed federal officials to review the 2015 sage-grouse plans and policies.  A scoping notice followed to which the WSGA responded.

 “We are pleased with the actions of Secretary Zinke; however, the proposals fall far short of what must be accomplished to rectify the abuses of the past,” said William Perry Pendley, MSLF president.  “We provided a detailed response of the steps to be undertaken.”

The greater sage-grouse is the largest grouse species in North America with a range that stretches across 165 million acres in eleven western states:  California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.   In March of 2010, the FWS published “12-Month Finding for Petitions to List the Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as Threatened or Endangered.”  The FWS found that listing of the greater sage-grouse was “warranted, but precluded” by higher listing priorities.  This finding prompted unprecedented state-led conservation efforts, especially in Wyoming.  These efforts were successful, because on September 22, 2015, citing the success of collaborative conservation efforts, former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said listing of the greater sage-grouse was not warranted and it will be withdrawn from the candidate species list.

In September of 2015, the BLM and Forest Service finalized their Wyoming Greater Sage-Grouse Land Use Plan Amendments and dismissed protests by the WSGA and others.  Similar plans affect California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Utah.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system.  Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.

For more information:  Wyoming Stock Growers Association v. U.S. Department of the Interior

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