BLM taking comments about sage-grouse habitat projects
The Bureau of Land Management is accepting comments on a plan to streamline the approval process for habitat improvement projects to benefit greater sage-grouse and other wildlife in northwestern Colorado.
BLM is beginning to develop a programmatic environmental assessment that takes a broad look at possible projects in sagebrush and pinyon-juniper habitats on BLM-administered lands in the region, and wants to hear any issues or concerns from the public, the agency stated in a news release.
Biologists have identified one of the greatest threats to greater sage-grouse habitat is pinyon and juniper trees gradually moving into sagebrush communities, creating cover and perches for potential sage-grouse predators and eventually crowding out the sagebrush.
“We are planning a number of projects to restore sagebrush habitat throughout northwestern Colorado in the coming years,” said Northwest District Manager Andrew Archuleta. “Rather than do a number of separate, redundant environmental assessments, we can do one larger programmatic assessment that will streamline the approval for most projects.”
The EA will analyze techniques to improve sagebrush habitat and battle encroaching pinyon-juniper, including hand-thinning, mechanical treatments such as mowing or roller-chopping, prescribed fire, seeding and erosion control.
“These treatments will benefit sagebrush-dependent species like greater sage-grouse, as well as stimulate plant growth that will increase forage for a variety of wildlife including deer and elk,” the release explained.
The goal is to create a comprehensive document for individual projects to reference, which will eliminate the need for a separate analysis for each project. Site-specific surveys and clearances would still be required.
The EA will cover the BLM’s Northwest District, including the Colorado River Valley and Grand Junction field offices.
Comments should be submitted by Jan. 19, 2017. Information about how to comment and the proposal itself are available online at http://bit.ly/2hS1WZC.