Garfield County Greater Sage-Grouse
The BLM has released an approved record of decision (ROD) on amendments to its northwest Colorado greater sage-grouse resource management plan that reflect contributions from Garfield County.
Late changes exclude public
Garfield County has received 138 records from a Freedom of Information request to the US Department of Interior after filing a lawsuit. The county found the DOI did not get public input on late changes to its Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision released in September, 2015 for Northwest Colorado.
The Greater Sage Grouse does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act the U.S. Department of the Interior announced September 22, 2015. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attributes unprecedented conservation efforts across the western U.S.
sage grouse decision
Garfield County comments on BLM’s NW Colorado Greater Sage-Grouse Draft Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement
Garfield County Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan
On November 17, 2014, the Board of County Commissioners approved the first amendment to the Garfield County Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan. The purpose of this plan is to provide private and public land owners with land management principles, policies, incentives, and best management practices based on the best available science.
Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan document
Purpose of the plan
The purpose of the Garfield County Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan (the Plan) is to provide private and public land owners with land management principles, policies, incentives, and best management practices based on the best available science that are tailored to fit Garfield County’s unique landscape and habitat characteristics for the betterment of the species.
Because of the County’s unique landform, elevation, topography and vegetative cover that differ drastically from the rest of the national range, the Board of County Commissioners (the Board) commissioned an in-depth analysis, based on best available science, to determine what suitable habitat exists in the County at a refined level never before completed to obtain a very realistic and accurate picture of what suitable habitat exists.
The land located within the Plan Area is primarily held in private ownership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) representing the only public land. Coincidentally, most of the public lands and private property in this area contain significant oil and gas resources that are actively being developed or are intended for future development. By design, this Plan will continuously adapt as science expands for the species and habitat as well as acknowledging advances in energy exploration technology that continue to reduce the disturbance footprint. Ultimately, this will result in adaptive land management policies intended for the survival and success of the species.
As implemented, this Plan shall require these policies and principles be applied on public lands as ‘regulatory assurances’ through Coordination and they will be applied on private lands as ‘incentive-based assurances.’ In this way, this Plan serves as a planning tool for private land owners by informing and improving their conservation efforts on a voluntary basis with the added opportunity to amend this Plan as a result of their stewardship successes.
Finally, because of the scientifically sound habitat modeling conducted to identify the suitable habitat in Garfield County which is the basis of this Plan, the County intends that this Plan may serve as a model for other counties located within the national range. Furthermore, this Plan explicitly relies on the Coordination process that requires federal and state agencies with sage-grouse management responsibilities in Garfield County to ensure that their plans are consistent with this Plan. Ultimately, the Coordination process will be the vehicle that brings disparate parties together with the same intent on making sound land management decisions that benefit the sage-grouse and its habitat recognizing that there are multiple uses being managed at the same time.
Garfield County Suitable Habitat Results for Greater Sage Grouse
Garfield County Suitable Habitat Results for Greater Sage Grouse with Colorado Parks & Wildlife Restricted Surface Occupancy Map overlay
Garfield County Suitable Habitat Results for Greater Sage Grouse with Colorado Parks & Wildlife Sensitive Wildlife Habitat Map overlay
The Plan Area includes the area where the suitable habitats are located within Garfield County and are primarily limited to the western region of the county in occupied habitats on the Roan Plateau (see Figure 1, below). Approximately 85% of the land within the Plan Area does not support habitat characteristics necessary to support the sage-grouse, but within this area there are small but important patches of suitable habitat. In order to ensure that habitat containing, or has the potential to contain, sage-grouse is properly managed; this Plan and the associated maps identify distinct habitat categories in the Plan Area including Suitable Habitat, Temporarily Disturbed, Unoccupied Suitable Habitat, and Lek No Surface Occupancy (NSO) Habitat.
Governor Hickenlooper’s letter to the Bureau of Land Management on the state approach in environmental impact statement
Garfield County Commissioners are encouraged by the letter sent by the Governor to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) because it aligns closely with the points and efforts made by the Commissioners since they began working with our federal agencies in 2005 to reach a balanced approach to protect and conserve habitat for the Greater Sage-Grouse as well as allow for multiple uses on our federal lands including grazing and energy development. Main points made by the Governor of Colorado to the BLM regarding Greater Sage-Grouse planning conservation efforts are:
- “It is our hope that a management alternative can be developed that both safeguards the economic engine of Northwest Colorado and protects the GrSG sufficiently to preclude a listing under the Endangered Species Act.”
- “The communities of northwest Colorado rely on access and productivity associated with public lands for their livelihood. With that in mind, any Plan that the BLM ultimately proposes must accurately assess the socio-economic values that link the people with the land. Ranching and energy development are the two most important drivers in the region; the final RMP should propose an adaptive management approach that will conserve habitat for the GrSG while continuing to allow those industries to thrive.”
- “We are prepared to support conservation measures necessary to preclude a listing, but we do not want to see overly restrictive measures that would irreparably harm the energy industry.”
- “…we urge the BLM to pursue a flexible approach that allows managers to learn as they go; imposing an arbitrary cap [limitation] on the landscape could have catastrophic impacts on resource use.”
- “We also understand that federal agencies do not have jurisdiction on private lands and this should be made explicit in the RMP.”
- “Adaptive management is a widely accepted tool for managing resources. Rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all prescription, we urge the BLM to consider local conditions before, during , and after any tools are deployed.” …”Lastly, we urge the BLM to maximize the benefits available through public-private partnerships.”
Draft comments on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) NW Colorado Greater Sage Grouse Draft Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)
This presentation is based on a draft response to the BLM Draft EIS. Additional comments will be presented to the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday and possibly on December 2 for the final response to the Draft EIS.
Video of presentation to the Board of County Commissioners November 18, 2013 on draft Comments on the BLM’s NW Colorado Greater Sage Grouse Draft Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Garfield County Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan
Adopted: March 18, 2013 (via Resolution 2013-23)
Final Garfield County comments on the BLMs NW Colorado Greater Sage Grouse Draft Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement, December 2, 2013.
Garfield County participated as a Cooperating Agency as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) crafted the four alternatives in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) prior to its public release. Additionally, the county hosted five coordination meetings with a variety of state and federal agencies, including the BLM, in order to provide a forum to attempt to point out and resolve inconsistencies between the BLM’s planning efforts and local efforts by Garfield County. Unfortunately, despite the effort by the county, the inconsistencies between the BLM’s DEIS and the county’s Greater Sage Grouse (GSG) Conservation Plan remain unresolved.
The county has performed an in-depth analysis of the proposed alternatives in the DEIS and reviewed the socio-economic impact analysis and, as a general comment, finds the DEIS has failed to meet its legal obligation to provide a reasonable range of alternatives by excluding County’s Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Plan within the range of alternatives and has not adequately identified the socio-economic impacts to our communities in Garfield County.
Garfield County’s full comments are outlined below.
Grouse Comments Cover
Cover Letter to BLM
Exhibit A – Detailed Comments
Exhibit B – Garfield County GSG Suitable Habitat Map
Exhibit C – BBC Supplemental Economic Report
Exhibit D – Letter to Mike King
Exhibit E – Colorado River Fire Rescue Letter
Exhibit F – Grand River Hospital Letter
Exhibit G – Town of Parachute Letter
Exhibit H – RE-16 School District Letter
Exhibit I – Town of Silt Resolution
Exhibit J – De Beque Fire Protection District Letter
Exhibit K – Grand Valley Fire Protection District Letter
Exhibit L – City of Rifle Letter
Exhibit N – Joint Letter to BLM and USFS
Exhibit O – Deficiencies in the NW DEIS
Exhibit P – Darling Legal Analysis of DEIS
Exhibit Q – DEIS scientific issues of fundamental importance – Ramey Final Comments