Conservation Groups Build on Sage Grouse Victory, Push Forward in 2016
Monday, January 4, 2016
LEWISTON, Mont. - Montana conservation groups are celebrating a victory in the movement to protect the greater sage grouse and planning additional efforts in 2016. The recent federal spending bill renewed the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and what it didn't include is just as important riders that were being pushed by development interests.
John Bradley, eastern field staff for the Montana Wildlife Federation, says the riders would have interfered with the Bureau of Land Management's process of creating Resource Management Plans, and possibly derailed implementation of the federal Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Plan.
"There was a huge threat that all the work to protect the greater sage grouse would be unraveled," says Bradley. "The habitat supports more than 350 other species including mule deer, pronghorn and most importantly for many hunters, elk."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided in September not to grant the sage grouse endangered species protection – after conservation and sportsmen's groups, government agencies and other stakeholders in the West banded together to write the Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Plan.
Bradley says his group is now focusing on the springtime release of the BLM’s next Resource Management Plan for federal lands around the Lewistown area.
"We would like concrete plans to retain the backcountry nature of these isolated and intact landscapes," says Bradley. "This area holds some of the world’s best publicly-accessible elk hunting and we want to protect that resource for years to come."
The BLM accepts public input year-round, but there will be an official public comment period for this plan, once it's released in draft form.
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