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Forest Service Greater Sage-grouse Plans Objections and Resolution Process – Next Steps.

The Reviewing Officer, Allen Rowley, Associate Deputy Chief for National Forests Systems from the Washington Office, is working on concerns identified in the objection letters and as clarified in discussions with objectors and interested persons during an in-person meeting in Salt Lake City December 10-12, 2019.  Audio and transcripts of the meeting are available here.  Additional calls or meetings with objectors may take place during January and February.  The process will conclude when the Forest Service Reviewing Officer provides written guidance to the Responsible Officials (the Regional Foresters in the Intermountain and Rocky Mountain Regions) with any required changes to the greater sage-grouse plans and records of decision. The timeline for final decisions is uncertain until the scope and scale of changes to the plans are determined.

 

Release of Annual Greater sage-grouse monitoring report – Jan 2020

The Forest Service (FS) has compiled current information about the greater sage-grouse species and its habitat on National Forest System land in order to fulfill the annual reporting requirement in the 2015 sage-grouse plan amendments, as detailed in each plan’s Monitoring Appendix. This report is based on current databases and information available at the time of writing.  All data are provisional and some figures may be revised in later years as more complete information is compiled.

 

The FS has also included additional information such as, sage-grouse habitat improved, adaptive management evaluations, and fire management that may assist in assessing the effectiveness of sage-grouse plan components through time. 

 

This report is part of an ongoing process of annual monitoring. It describes current conditions but is not an analysis or a description of a change of conditions. Although annual reports were produced for the years 2016 and 2017, the 2019 report also includes information from 2018. The 2019 report shows that:

 

  • FS projects improved habitat for sage-grouse on nearly 480,000 acres from 2016-2019.

  • Fires burned approximately 260,000 acres of greater sage-grouse habitat on National Forest System lands in 2016-2019.

  • Data on habitat degradation are available from 2015-2018, and cumulative anthropogenic disturbance was at 0.03% on greater sage-grouse biologically significant units.

  • Greater sage-grouse numbers in western states continue to cycle and are currently within the natural range of variability.

  • In the years 2016-2019, the FS made 165 project decisions of National Forest System Lands covered by the 2015 Greater Sage Grouse Amendments, of which 100% were reported to be in compliance with plans.

    • Only 25% of those project decisions occurred within greater sage-grouse habitat management areas.

  • The plans emphasize avoidance of surface development in sage-grouse habitat and no exceptions were allowed for fluid minerals development in sage-grouse management areas.

  • Adaptive management triggers have been analyzed in several states; triggers were not tripped in Montana or Colorado, but some population and habitat triggers were surpassed in Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho.Specific areas and responses are described in the report.

  • The currently proposed sage-grouse plan amendments incorporated the 2016 and 2017 report’s findings into the Environmental impact Statement for the new amendments. The final Records of Decision for the new amendments will reference the 2019 report to ensure monitoring will continue to help to inform future forest planning and project decisions

 

The report is posted on the Intermountain Region Website

 

Forest Service Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Records of Decision for Greater Sage-grouse Conservation

The Intermountain and Rocky Mountain Regions of the Forests Service incorporated standards and guidelines for the conservation of greater sage-grouse into forest plans in 2015.  After two years of implementation and monitoring, the Forest Service identified new information that could be used to improve the clarity, efficiency, and implementation of the 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse Plan Amendments, in order to benefit greater sage-grouse conservation at the landscape scale.  During the development of a draft Environmental Impact Statement, comments were requested from the public and were used to create proposed revisions to greater sage-grouse plans for forests in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.  Most of the content of 2015 plans remained, but changes were proposed that incorporated new information and attempted to improve the efficiency of plan implementation.  The Final Environmental Impact Statement can be found here, and draft Records of Decision can be found at the links for ColoradoIdaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. The publication of the legal notice on August 2nd, 2019 begins a 60-day objection period that cannot be extended.  After the objection period, which is described in the Records of Decision and in the Federal Register,  the Forest Service will attempt to resolve any remaining concerns before creating final Records of Decision.  Members of the public may examine interactive maps of habitat management areas using a web tool.

The notice of opportunity to object can be found in the Federal Register and in the Newspaper of Record Notice 8-2-2019 Denver Post. Newspaper of Record Notice 8-2-2019 Salt Lake Tribune.

Summary of Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Statement to Amend Sage-Grouse Plans

The Intermountain and Rocky Mountain Regions of the Forests Service incorporated standards and guidelines for the conservation of greater sage-grouse into forest plans in 2015. As plans have been implemented, potential inefficiencies and difficulties were identified. Comments were requested on an initial Notice of Intent (NOI), and a supplemental NOI to revise the 2015 plans in 2017 and 2018.  Those comments were used to create a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to amend forest plans. The public comment period for the DEIS ended on January 3, 2019. The comments received have been summarized into a report.

Bulletin

This bulletin provides a status update on Forest Service greater sage-grouse planning immediately after the January 2019 furlough.

Intermountain and Rocky Mountain Regions Publish a DEIS for Sage-Grouse

The Forest Service proposed to amend the Forest Service land management plans that were created in 2015 regarding greater sage-grouse conservation in the states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah.  The Forest Service published the Notice of Availability announcing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on October 5, 2018. All comments, including names and addresses when provided, are placed in the record and are available for public inspection and copying. The public may inspect comments received online via the public reading room at: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/ReadingRoom?project=52904.

Public Participation Strategy

Summary of Comments to Notice of Intent to Amend Sage-Grouse Plans

The Intermountain and Rocky Mountain Regions of the Forests Service incorporated standards and guidelines for the conservation of greater sage-grouse into forest plans in 2015. As plans have been implemented, potential inefficiencies and difficulties have been identified. An initial Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement was published and then after initial input, the Forest Service released a supplemental NOI with specific proposed actions for comment. The public comment period ended on August 15, 2018. The comments received have been summarized into a report that is available online.

Forest Service Communication Strategy for Greater Sage-Grouse Planning

The U.S. Forest Service is considering developing amendments to current sage-grouse conservation plans.  Public involvement is important for adding meaningful participation from the early phases of planning through finalization of the plan amendments and subsequent monitoring. A public participation strategy has been designed to assist with communication within the Forest Service and between the Forest Service and the public. 

Comments on Greater Sage-Grouse Plans Received and Summarized

The Northern, Intermountain, and Rocky Mountain Regions of the Forests Service incorporated standards and guidelines for the conservation of greater sage-grouse into forest plans in 2015. As plans have been implemented, potential inefficiencies and difficulties have been identified. To thoroughly and transparently explore the effectiveness of the plans, the Forests Service asked for comments from the public during a comment period which ran from November 21, 2017 to January 19, 2018. The comments received have been summarized into a report that is available online.


Grazing Permits and Greater Sage-grouse Time-frame Change

On November 27, 2017, the Forest Service provided public notice of an administrative change we intended to make to the land management plans that were altered on September 16, 2015. This administrative change does not affect any plan components, only other plan content, as it extends the timeframe for implementing of livestock grazing direction. 


2016 Report - Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation the Sagebrush Ecosystem; Collaborative Conservation at Work

What is the Forest Service doing to benefit Sage-grouse?

Close up of a Male Sage-GrouseThe Lucky Peak Nursery helps support the efforts towards conservation of the Greater sage-grouse (GRSG) habitat. The nursery, located on the Boise National Forest, propagates sagebrush seeds into seedlings which will be used in the restoration of dry, grassy plains essential to the GRSG habitat.

 

Photo of a burn going on through an area for sage-grouse habitat improvement.The Sawtooth National Forest has completed many projects on the Forest to benefit sage-grouse habitat.

 

 

Photo of a DNR employee holding a radio collared sage-grouse with a volunteer standing next to him.The Manti-La Sal National Forest worked with Southern Utah Fuels Company, Utah State University Extension, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative to install guzzlers and radio collared sage-grouse in the Wildcat Knolls and South Horn Mountain Areas. They have also worked on sagebrush habitat projects in the Wildcat Knolls area and in the Joes Valley Corridor.

 

Photo of two people marking fences with yellow streamers.The Curlew National Grassland on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest partnered with volunteers, conservation groups, Boy Scouts of America and local high schools to accomplish a couple of projects on the grassland.  Learn more the marking fences and protecting wet meadows and riparian areas projects.

 

The Douglas Ranger District of the Thunder Basin National Grassland has partnered with the Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association on a large-scale sagebrush mapping project to help land managers identify and prioritize greater sage-grouse habitat. The project has been underway since 2011 to produce a first-of-its-kind sagebrush canopy cover map. This project will use high-resolution aerial imagery and sage-grouse location data to identify areas for management action, such as restoration or maintenance.

Sage-GrouseThe Heber-Kamas Ranger District of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest has partnered with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to create openings in thick sagebrush cover to promote sage-grouse use. Read more about this effort.

 

Photo of four sage-grouse in a grassy meadow.  Three of them are hens.The West Desert Adaptive Resource Management Sage-Grouse Working Group has collaborated to remove encroaching conifer in the Vernon, Utah area. Read more about this effort.

 

 

Photo of two people placing a radio collar on a Sage-grouse.The Salmon-Challis National Forest began using telemetry to gain an understanding of the distribution and location of Sage-grouse seasonal habitats. Read more about this effort.

 

 

Sage-GrouseThe Washington Fire minimally impacted the Bi-State sage-grouse habitat and did not affect any nesting or lekking sites. Read more about the fire effects on the habitat.

 

Click to view Forest and District Habitat Maps

Sage-Grouse Conservation Overview

The greater sage-grouse, an iconic species of the sagebrush steppe ecosystem, currently occupies an estimated 56% of its historic range. Greater sage-grouse populations have been declining for more than 40 years. The Forest Service manages approximately 8% of the remaining greater sage-grouse habitat and is responsible for helping to ensure that greater sage- grouse populations persist. The conservation measures in five Forest Service land management plan amendments protect the greater sage-grouse by maintaining and restoring the sagebrush steppe ecosystem. Read an overview of the Forest Service strategy.

Records of Decision and Plan Amendments

Facts & Information

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