WASHINGTON, D.C., March 27, 2012—This week, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Western Energy Alliance and Public Lands Council questioned the administration’s commitment to job and economic growth in comments submitted to the Bureau of Land Management on greater sage-grouse policies in the West.

In December 2011, BLM released a short- and long-term conservation strategy for the greater sage-grouse on public lands. BLM intends to update 68 Resource Management Plans by September 2014 before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s court-ordered 2015 deadline for making a decision about whether to fully list the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Fortunately, BLM will allow state sage-grouse conservation policies that have been approved by the USFWS to supersede their policies. The three organizations believe that rather than top-down, federal directives, greater sage-grouse conservation must be guided by initiatives developed at the state and local levels to achieve practical and common-sense management policies.

“Western Energy Alliance supports the development of management policies that protect greater sage-grouse and avoid an ESA listing. However, BLM’s short- and long-term guidance for greater sage-grouse habitat goes above and beyond what is necessary to preserve the species and will unreasonably restrict oil and natural gas development on public lands,” said Spencer Kimball, manager of government affairs for Western Energy Alliance. “BLM’s strategy may ultimately lead to excessive restrictions across the West that fail to balance investment and job creation with reasonable species protection.”

“Local community groups in several states with sage-grouse populations have been working together to develop plans for preserving sage-grouse habitat while at the same providing a viable economic climate for ranchers," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "It’s important that the BLM plan recognize these local efforts and not override the work that has already been done.”

“If BLM and Forest Service are serious about their plans to enhance habitat for the greater sage-grouse, the agencies must take into account the on-the-ground conservation carried out by America’s ranchers every day,” said Dustin Van Liew, executive director of PLC. “Two of the biggest threats to a healthy and sustainable habitat for the greater sage-grouse are the loss of open space and catastrophic wildfires. Through ranchers’ efforts to continually improve the range and to responsibly manage the land’s resources, they reduce those threats and make multiple other significant contributions to improving the greater sage-grouse habitat, such as providing water sources and improving forage. As the agencies finalize their greater sage-grouse management policies, PLC strongly encourages them to work with America’s livestock producers to achieve a management plan that incorporates grazing as a habitat conservation tool so ranchers can continue their roles as range stewards and as producers of safe, wholesome and nutritious beef and lamb.”

“While it is important to maintain or improve habitat for the sage grouse, we must remember there are other uses of the habitat that are beneficial,” Brett Moline, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation director of public and governmental affairs, said.  “We cannot strive to improve for only one use, at the exclusion of other compatible uses, such as livestock grazing.  We must look at what is best for all, not just one species.”