USFS extends Sage-grouse comment period

Federal agencies’ processes overlapped

WYOMING – The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management coordinate on amending their respective greater sage-grouse management plans – but overlapping comment periods was making it difficult for public and officials to respond to both.

The Forest Service’s Intermountain Region Office announced Wednesday, Aug. 1, that it will extend its public comment period by 14 days to close on Aug. 15. It seeks input on its supplemental notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for amending forests’ sage-grouse management plans.

The BLM, which already released its draft environmental impact statement for its proposed sage-grouse changes, was accepting comments and input on that through Aug. 2.

“The extension is in response to requests for additional time from various state agencies and partners because of an overlap of the Forest Service comment period with the comment period for the (BLM’s) draft EIS on sage-grouse management,” says the statement from the Ogden, Utah office.

“The purpose of proposed changes is to improve the clarity, efficiency and implementation of greater sage-grouse plans, including better alignment with (BLM) and state plans, in order to benefit greater sage-grouse conservation on the landscape scale,” it says.

With the BLM’s comment period closing on Thursday, the state office will start to

tackle that public input.

“In the next month, we’ll begin reviewing comments, developing responses and making any appropriate changes to the documents,” said Emmet Pruss, Wyoming BLM public affairs specialist.

Even though they are at very different stages in their processes, the BLM and the FS are working for consistency across their two versions of sage-grouse amendments to resource and land management plans, Pruss said.

“We are acting as a cooperating agency on the Forest Service plans, and they are a cooperating agency on our plans,” he said. “We have both been working with the state of Wyoming to ensure consistency with the state plans. Therefore, we anticipate a similar approach on BLM and Forest Service-managed plans.”

The FS proposes amending sage-grouse management plans – previously amended in 2015 under the Obama Administration – in Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah.

Like the BLM, the FS will consider not designating “sagebrush focal areas” and would propose other “lessons learned from new science, scoping and implementing during the last three years.”

This comment period for the FS’ supplemental NOI will lead to will its undertaking the process for its plan amendments in multi-regional draft and final EISs for the five western states and expects the final plan amendments to be ready next summer.

To read and comment on the Forest Service’s Supplemental NOI, visit https:// 08-01/ pdf/2018-16556.pdf.

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