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PNS Daily Newscast - September 21, 2018 


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Sage-Grouse Plan Changes Decried By Scientists

Critics of the BLM's proposed changes to the already-approved Greater sage grouse Management Plan, that spans 11 states, say they are not based in science. (abcbirds.org)
Critics of the BLM's proposed changes to the already-approved Greater sage grouse Management Plan, that spans 11 states, say they are not based in science. (abcbirds.org)
July 2, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. — Scientists are pushing back against changes proposed to the multi-state Greater Sage Grouse Management Plan by the Trump administration.

Twenty-one sage grouse experts signed a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing concern over the Bureau of Land Management's proposal to focus more on individual states' approaches to conservation, rather than habitat-wide efforts. The plan spans 11 states, including South Dakota, and was crafted over several years to keep the bird off the endangered species list.

Terry Riley, a retired certified wildlife biologist now with the North American Grouse Partnership, signed the letter. He said the administration should keep the current plan in place.

"A lot of federal agencies, a lot of state agencies, a lot of NGOs, a lot of public citizens, a lot of local communities and businesses all came together to pull these plans together,” Riley said. “And making major changes now, after we went through all this work, is just not a very good plan."

Revising the plan could also open up some sage grouse habitat to oil and gas production, reflecting the Trump administration's commitment to prioritize fossil-fuel development. The sage grouse has lost half its habitat and 95 percent of its historic population in the West.

Sage grouse researcher Matt Holloran also signed the letter to Zinke. He said the BLM's proposed modifications aren't based on scientific evidence.

"Looking backwards and trying to change the plans is the wrong approach. I think we should be moving forward with the plans, and amending those in an adaptive way - science-based,” Holloran said. “Let's use the monitoring data that's collected as a component of implementing these plans, and make changes that are grounded in science."

The BLM is accepting public comment on the changes through August 2.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD