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Trump clashes with Democrats and threatens a government shutdown if he doesn’t get his border wall. Also on the Wednesday rundown: Lawmakers agree on an $867-billion Farm Bill; and a new report finds private community correction centers failing to rehabilitate people who live there.

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BLM Hosts WY Open Houses for Sage Grouse Plan Changes

Of the Bureau of Land Managementís upcoming and newly offered oil and gas leasing on public lands, 76 percent are located inside protected sage grouse habitat across Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. (BLM)
Of the Bureau of Land Managementís upcoming and newly offered oil and gas leasing on public lands, 76 percent are located inside protected sage grouse habitat across Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. (BLM)
June 25, 2018

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The Bureau of Land Management holds open house meetings in Wyoming this week on the agency's proposed changes to the Greater Sage-Grouse Management Plan.

The plan was created by a host of stakeholders over several years to keep the bird off the Endangered Species List, after its populations have declined by as much as 95 percent from historic levels.

Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands with the National Wildlife Federation, says the BLM’s proposal to allow oil and gas production inside the bird's most sensitive habitat areas would be a big step backwards.

"That whole concept of prioritizing leasing outside of habitat was born in Wyoming, came from the ground in Wyoming,” she points out. “The governor's executive order calls for that. And now, Department of Interior is rethinking that cornerstone, and it's a problem."

New maps suggest the Trump administration is making good on its promise to prioritize fossil fuel development.

More than 75 percent of the BLM's recent and upcoming oil and gas leases on public lands are located inside protected habitat across Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

The administration maintains removing environmental regulations is necessary to achieve what it calls energy dominance and create jobs.

Stone-Manning argues the original plan includes meeting the needs of oil and gas companies, and ranchers, while protecting mule deer, elk, sage grouse, and the hundreds of other species that depend on the Sagebrush Sea.

She says it's important for the BLM to give the plan time to work, and to keep public lands open for multiple uses.

"There are thousands of leases that have not been drilled, because the market is not demanding it,” she points out. “There's no cause to put all of our chips on one thing called energy dominance."

Monday's open house kicks off at 4 p.m. at the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne. And on Wednesday, BLM representatives will be at the Sublette County Library in Pinedale at 1:30 p.m.

Public comments on the proposed changes are being accepted through Aug. 2.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY