BOISE, ID (August 31, 2015)–The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), a national trail-based recreation group, is again urging federal agencies to avoid “exit-based” final land-use decisions. BRC has weathered numerous litigatory storms at the Presidential administration such as occurred over winter use in Yellowstone Park, or various incantations of a “roadless” rule on our National Forest System lands.
BRC believes the Forest Service and BLM are headed down a similar pathway that will lead to intractable litigation over numerous Greater Sage Grouse (GRSG) planning efforts in Western States.
BRC highlighted these concerns in a letter Friday, punctuated by the apparent trajectory of the Bi State Grouse decision process on the Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest. Under the Bi State decision new restrictions would be for off-highway vehicle events through an apparent agreement with environmental groups under the guise of the objection resolution process. The lek buffer distance would be nearly doubled from 3 miles to 4 miles, the 10 a.m. event restriction amended to an all-day closure, and the seasonal restriction expanded by 45 days to include the time from May 15 to June 30.
Don Amador, BRC’s Western Representative, stated, “I think these new restrictions are unwarranted and were never day-lighted during the public process. OHV recreation has been identified as nothing more than a secondary threat to GRSG, but is an important land-use activity in the West. We are concerned that the GRSG is becoming a convenient excuse to issue parting gifts to various special interests during the Administration’s final year.”
BRC’s letter outlines significant new information and changes that were not available for public comment. BRC formally requested that the agencies conduct a supplemental analysis, and seek an extension from a deadline which would force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide on or before September 30, 2015, whether the GRSG must receive protection under the Endangered Species Act. “The purported urgency of meeting this deadline is improperly driving this process,” Amador noted. In fact, the deadlines in the settlement agreement have been extended on multiple other occasions for other species. “We intend to test the agencies’ willingness to conduct a proper process that incorporates best available science and allows for full public involvement,” Amador concluded.