Sage grouse are making big news again out in the hills of Wyoming, as the U.S. Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are rewriting management rules for the species.
For those who are involved in the businesses of ranching, energy, mining or recreation, these new management rules may cause Wyoming and other Western states some new regulations.
I don’t want to sound negative, but the current administration has not done any favors for the West since they have been in power.
The government has been developing new rules for months, and now they are saying these new regulations are coming soon.
Wyoming was the first state to aggressively develop a management plan in hopes of keeping sage grouse from being listed on the Endangered Species Act, and other Western states used this plan as a template while adopting their own plans.
Most other states were not as aggressive as Wyoming, but don’t forget, Wyoming has more sage grouse than any other state. A listing could really hurt large portions of Wyoming.
Around 2007, a broad stakeholder group – the Sage Grouse Implementation Team (SGIT) – was established and tasked with developing a regulatory mechanism for the protection and management of sage grouse and its habitat in Wyoming.
SGIT established core areas with some restrictions, and the state of Wyoming and the BLM approved these core areas, all of which contained private, state and federal lands.
At the time, landowners across the state were really not aware of what was happening with their private lands.
I woke up one morning and realized my whole ranch was painted green on a map as a core area. I didn’t feel I had any part of the decisions being made on my private lands, but realizing the threat of a listing, I didn’t contest the action. I just wish someone would have contacted me and explained what was happening on my private lands.
Currently, the state is going through this same process to develop new core areas and to try to influence the government not to force more sage grouse restrictions on the state.
I applaud SGIT for their proactive approach in keeping sage grouse from being listed, but I wish landowners would have been kept more in the know of what was being planned with their private lands.
The first map that surfaced showed a large number of new core areas, which really concerned landowners of their possible loss of rights. Instead of focusing on sage grouse, private lands rights have taken over as the main topic for discussion.
The second map, which came out June 15, showed a lot less of the new core areas and does not affect as many landowners.
Public comments will be accepted through June 28 on the topic, and SGIT will meet in Lander July 6 to consider these comments.
The third and final map is supposed to be approved by SGIT on July 7 in Lander, following the comment session on July 6 and will be released following this meeting.
For some landowners, trust has eroded with SGIT and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Now, instead of partnering up, it is an “us against them” situation.
Either way, if it is the U.S. or state government, private landowners aren’t going to win with sage grouse.
Dennis Sun is the publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, a weekly agriculture newspaper available online and in print. To subscribe, visit wylr.net or call 800-967-1647.