Commissioners voice concerns over BLM’s sage-grouse plan | PostIndependent.com

Commissioners voice concerns over BLM’s sage-grouse plan

Garfield County has joined other Northwest Colorado governments in putting their concerns about the Bureau of Land Management's Greater Sage-Grouse Resource Management Plan.

County commissioners on Monday signed a letter to the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior David Bernhardt.

"It is rather unfortunate the BLM only allowed for one cooperating agency meeting and less than seven days to make comments on revisions to a RMP that took years to initially complete with over two years of cooperating agency meetings, coordination meetings and comments reduced to written volumes measured it feet," the letter sent to Bernhardt and BLM Colorado Sage-Grouse Coordinator Bridget Kobe Clayton states.

Monday's meeting began with the commissioners ratifying a letter sent to Bernhardt on April 6, in which the county aligned itself with the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado and its collective concerns regarding the plan. The commissioners sent an additional letter to Bernhardt and Clayton with the county's specific and full set of comments.

After the BLM released its initial plan for sage-grouse, Garfield County, along with 20 local governments, conducted a scientific review of the report, discovering that there were significant errors, omissions and biases, Garfield County states.

Since that time, BLM has been revising its plan, which Garfield County was given a chance to comment on.

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At Monday's hearing, Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky voiced his concerns over the initial report, mentioning his discontent with the species being brought up as threatened or endangered, but added that there must be better habitat mapping in Northwest Colorado.

"We believe the Greater Sage-Grouse was never warranted for listing, because conservatively, population numbers of the species are estimated at 500,000 or more," the letter reads. "We continue to support conversation efforts; however, the science used as the basis for this plan is not applicable to our terrain."

The commissioners requested several revisions to the management plan, including changes to the habitat mapping.

"We recently worked through a process with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado to revise the habitat maps in not only Garfield County, but also in the other counties in NW that host grouse populations," the letter reads. "As a result CPW has approved and endorsed the resulting habitat maps and Garfield County request that these revised maps replace existing habitat maps in this revised RMP."

The commissioners commented on the environmental impact of BLM's plan as well as joined other local governments in listing their critical concerns for the RMP amendments in the two letters.