Garfield County positions itself as new federal sage grouse conservation reviews begin
A recent revision to Garfield County’s Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan was just one step in the county’s ongoing efforts to stay ahead of any changes in federal policy that might be on the horizon.
The Board of County Commissioners on Monday authorized a letter to U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials requesting that the county be allowed to participate as a cooperating agency as the BLM looks to amend its Resource Management Plan to protect the bird.
The BLM announced in November its intent to amend the plan and prepare a new Environmental Impact Statement. Initial comments as part of that process are due by Feb. 7.
Garfield County, for the better part of two decades, has been involved with greater sage-grouse conservation efforts.
Those efforts included a strong push during the Obama administration to keep the bird off the federal Endangered Species List by working to develop state and local management plans.
Habitat for the greater sage-grouse is limited to the northwestern part of Colorado, extending into Garfield County along the Roan Plateau north of Parachute, where several natural gas operations are located.
A major concern for the county has been to make sure habitat protections are based on local observations and mapping, rather than being broad in nature.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he’s concerned that the review is being driven out of the federal BLM office in Washington, D.C., rather than the state and regional offices.
“I worry that they will use science germane to Wyoming and Idaho, and not necessarily to Colorado,” he said.
Past efforts by the county to work alongside the BLM and state and federal wildlife officials have been successful in ensuring that doesn’t happen, he noted.
“Similar to our previous involvement in the Resource Management Plan amendments, Garfield County is formally requesting to participate as a cooperating agency with the BLM as it develops this new Environmental Impact Statement and amendments,” the county’s letter states.
“Further, we will coordinate with the BLM as it develops its Resource Management Plan amendments pursuant to the county’s Coordination Plan and (federal policy),” the letter states.
The letter was addressed to Greg Larson, district manager for the BLM’s Upper Colorado River District, and Leah Waldner, sage-grouse coordinator for the BLM’s Grand Junction Field Office.
Garfield County last month also amended its own Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan, expanding the habitat map and reflecting new factors impacting bird populations in the county, according to a county news release at the time.
The changes were based on input from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the BLM.
About 77% of the bird’s habitat in Garfield County involves privately owned land.
The new maps, which had already been adopted by CPW and the federal government, cover 89,743 acres of priority habitat and 95,772 acres of general habitat, providing more protection for the bird than in prior maps, the release stated.
“The purpose of the plan is to accurately identify greater sage-grouse habitat in the county, as well as to provide private and public landowners with land-management principles, policies, incentives, and best-management practices based on the best available science that is tailored to fit Garfield County’s unique landscape for the betterment of the species,” Deputy County Manager Fred Jarman said during a discussion with the county commissioners at their Nov. 15 meeting. “This update takes the newly adopted maps and places them in the county’s plan.”
Read the updated Garfield County Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan at Garfield-County.com.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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