Tag Archives: U.S. Department of the Interior

Sage grouse plan revision draws decidedly mixed reviews

Sage Grouse - USFWS image
Sage Grouse – USFWS image

Here’s a pretty good write-up on the Interior Department’s revisions to the sage grouse conservation plan put into place a couple of years ago . . .

A task force is recommending changes that could loosen protections for the greater sage grouse, a Western bird species renowned for its elaborate mating dance.

The report comes out of a review by the Trump administration of a massive Obama-era conservation plan for the bird which is imperiled by loss of habitat.

The administration says the revisions are aimed at giving states more flexibility. But critics argue that the changes favor mining and petroleum companies and could hurt the bird’s long-term prospects.

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Interior Secretary Zinke to review sage grouse protections

Sage Grouse - BLM photo
Sage Grouse – BLM photo

This is the NPR version of this story, including a pretty neat sage grouse video . . .

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced that regulations protecting the sage grouse – rules which have been subject to years of negotiation and controversy in Western states – are once again under review.

This puts the Greater Sage Grouse Conservation plan, finalized in 2015, in a state of flux.

Zinke stressed that the Trump administration wants to see improvement in the bird’s conservation, but also wants to make sure that state agencies are “heard on this issue.” He said that possible modifications would take into account “local economic growth and job creation.”

It’s safe to say that the sage grouse, found only in North America, is a singular, strange bird that elicits strong feelings…

Read more . . .

Also read: Interior Chief to Review Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan (Flathead Beacon)

NYT: Public Lands in Private Hands?

Three Types of Public Lands
Three types of public lands: Flathead National Forest is in the foreground, left and right; Montana’s Coal Creek State Forest, including Cyclone Lake, is in the middle distance; Glacier National Park stretches across the background.

Jimmy Tobias, currently an environmental reporter and, for three summers, a trail crew worker in this corner of the country, has a strongly worded op-ed in the New York Times regarding public lands transfer . . .

The Senate’s confirmation this week of the former Montana congressman Ryan Zinke as secretary of the interior has revived concerns about the future of public lands in the Trump administration. While Mr. Zinke has branded himself as a Teddy Roosevelt-style conservationist — and resigned as a delegate to the Republican National Convention last year to protest the party’s support for transferring federal lands to states or private groups — his record is spotty…

My generation and those that follow have much at stake in this battle. We stand to lose our ability to hike and camp, to bike and boat, to hunt and fish and explore freely in these superlative places. We also stand to lose the opportunities for meaningful work, civic engagement and spiritual fulfillment that our public lands provide…

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Interior Department cancels remaining oil and gas leases in Badger-Two Medicine

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

Here’s a bit more information on last Tuesday’s announcement of the cancellation of the last two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced the Bureau of Land Management has canceled the final two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area within the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Northwest Montana.

The two lease cancellations address outstanding concerns about the potential for oil and gas development in this culturally and ecologically important area. The cancellations come on the heels of U.S. officials cancelling other 15 oil and gas leases in the area.

“We are proud to have worked alongside the Blackfeet Nation and the U.S. Forest Service throughout this process to roll back decades-old leases and reinforce the importance of developing resources in the right way and the right places.” said Secretary Sally Jewell. “The cancellation of the final two leases in the rich cultural and natural Badger-Two Medicine Area will ensure it is protected for future generations.”

Read more . . .

Further reading: The official BLM press release

US cancels last two oil and gas leases in Badger-Two Medicine area

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

With 12 days left in the Obama administration, the Interior Department cancelled the remaining two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced the Bureau of Land Management has canceled the final two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area within the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Northwest Montana.

The two lease cancellations address outstanding concerns about the potential for oil and gas development in this culturally and ecologically important area. The cancellations come on the heels of U.S. officials cancelling another 15 oil and gas leases in the area.

“We are proud to have worked alongside the Blackfeet Nation and the U.S. Forest Service throughout this process to roll back decades-old leases and reinforce the importance of developing resources in the right way and the right places.” said Secretary Sally Jewell. “The cancellation of the final two leases in the rich cultural and natural Badger-Two Medicine Area will ensure it is protected for future generations.”

Read more . . .

U.S. Interior secretary touts public lands, funding in Montana

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was at Hauser Lake near Helena last Tuesday, talking about public lands and funding. Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this one . . .

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell spoke to a crowd of public land employees and conservationists at Hauser Lake northeast of here Tuesday to promote public land and full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, raise awareness about the outdoors economy and unveil new funding for youth in conservation.

Speaking to the media afterward, she commented on the recent takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon, the cancellation of an oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area earlier this year and her decision not to visit coal-dependent communities in southeastern Montana.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who traveled with Jewell, said Devil’s Elbow at Hauser Lake, a Bureau of Land Management campground, was a befitting place for the discussion because it has benefited from LWCF money in the past.

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Tribes object to delisting of grizzly bear; take fight to DC

Cinca, May 5, 2015 by W K Walker

Tribal leaders in the United States and Canada have registered strong objections with the U.S. federal government over its intent to remove the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List. Native News Online posted two stories on this conflict recently. The first discusses the visit of a tribal delegation to various federal offices early this month . . .

Tribal leaders took the fight to save grizzly bears from trophy hunters’ guns, and in the process defend tribal spiritual rights and sovereignty, to the highest offices of the federal government last week. What began with a loudly applauded announcement denouncing the delisting of the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by NCAI President, Brian Cladoosby, in the presence of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, concluded with a delegation of tribal leaders meeting with Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Mike Connor, and US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director, Dan Ashe.

Over forty tribes have issued declarations and resolutions opposing the delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the ESA, a status change that will hand management of the grizzly to the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, all of which intend to operate high-dollar trophy hunts of the grizzly on sacred and ancestral tribal homelands. Removing federal protections from the grizzly will also remove the existing protections on the lands the bear occupies, loosening restrictions on energy, livestock and timber leases on approximately two million acres of Greater Yellowstone.

Coalescing around GOAL Tribal Coalition, tribal nations state that delisting the grizzly is contrary to tribal interests and will cause irreversible damage to tribal cultural practices due to the significance of the grizzly in foundational narratives and ceremonies. “The grizzly bear is sacred to us. We want the grizzly bear to remain protected. We do not want the states trophy hunting the grizzly bear,” insists Vice Chairman Tyler.

Continue reading . . .

A couple of weeks later, the Assembly of First Nations in Canada weighed in on the matter . . .

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief, Perry Bellegarde, has petitioned President Barack Obama to “reconsider the decision to delist the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to permit States to profit from trophy hunts of this sacred being.” The AFN is a national advocacy organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada, which includes more than 900,000 people living in 634 First Nation communities and in cities and towns across the country.

The AFN’s just released letter comes in the wake of a delegation of tribal leaders meeting with the White House Council, and House and Senate offices on Capitol Hill. During those meetings, Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) indicated to the envoys for the massed tribal opposition that he would take up the fifty-strong tribal coalition’s fight. Tribes state that delisting the grizzly bear is contrary to tribal interests and will cause irreversible damage to tribal cultural practices due to the significance of the grizzly in ceremonies integral to tribal religions.

Tribes are insisting that the “thorough” and “meaningful” consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) mandated by President Obama in his 2013 Executive Order creating the White House Council on Native American Affairs be honored, along with a raft of other treaties, acts, executive orders, secretarial orders, and laws.

Continue reading . . .

Interior Department plans to cancel Badger-Two Medicine leases

Badger-Two Medicine Region

No surprise here, but it is good to see the official ruling from the U.S. Department of the Interior concerning the contentious oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine . . .

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced its aim to cancel a contentious oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area, a landscape that connects the Bob Marshall Wilderness to Glacier National Park and is considered a sacred cultural reserve by the Blackfeet Nation.

In a court-ordered response filed Nov. 23, attorneys for the Interior Department submitted a decision hailed by tribal leaders, conservation groups and political leaders as a “critical step forward” in the pursuit of furnishing permanent protections on the region.

The decision follows an earlier recommendation by the U.S. Forest Service that energy exploration on the 165,000-acre parcel would irreparably damage the area’s cultural and historic significance.

Read more . . .

Feds reject Endangered Species Act protection for greater sage grouse

Sage Grouse

The Interior Department decided not to give sage grouse Endangered Species Act protection . . .

The Interior Department said Tuesday that the greater sage grouse, a ground-dwelling bird whose vast range spans 11 Western states, does not need federal protections following a costly effort to reverse the species’ decline without reshaping the region’s economy.

The fight over whether to list the bird as endangered or threatened recalled the battle over the spotted owl 25 years ago, where federal protection greatly impeded the logging economy. The Obama administration and affected states have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to saving the species without Endangered Species Act protections that many argued would threaten the oil and gas industry and agriculture.

Tuesday’s announcement signaled that the Obama administration believes it has struck a delicate balance to save the birds from extinction without crippling the West’s economy. It also could help defuse a potential political liability for Democrats heading into the 2016 election; federal protections could have brought much more sweeping restrictions on oil and gas drilling, grazing and other human activities from California to the Dakotas.

Read more . . .

Also read: Shift in US firefighting prioritizes sage grouse in West (Missoulian)

Wildfires could cost $400M more than budgeted

As in the last several years, the Interior Department is likely to come up short on funds to fight wildfires . . .

This year’s wildfires could cost almost half a billion dollars more than what the U.S. Forest Service has budgeted, according to Department of Interior estimates.

In a report to Congress released Thursday, DOI officials said they may need $1.8 billion for firefighting this season. But they have only $1.4 billion budgeted for the work.

“While our agencies will spend the necessary resources to protect people, homes and our forests, the high levels of wildfire this report predicts would force us to borrow funds from forest restoration, recreation and other areas,” Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie said in a news release. Both President Barack Obama’s proposed budget and legislation currently before Congress would allow the Forest Service to pay for fire expenses the same way the federal government assists natural disasters like hurricanes and floods.

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