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Moratorium on Sagebrush Focal Areas To Expire Sunday

Posted By RJ Alpers, Thursday, October 5, 2017

This Sunday, the Interior Department’s two-year moratorium will end and reopen millions of acres of Sage Grouse habitat to new mining claims. Secretary Ryan Zinke is not expected to issue a new moratorium order protecting the 10 million acres of "sagebrush focal areas," or SFAs. The SFAs were included in the Obama-era grouse plans finalized two years ago, intending to protect the Sage Grouse and possibly even label it as an endangered species. While the moratorium ends Sunday, the Bureau of Land Management is currently conducting an environmental impact statement to assess whether all, parts or none of the 10 million acres should be withdrawn from new mining claims for the next 20 years (or more) in the name of protecting the sage grouse and its habitat.

The BLM is not expected to complete their final environmental impact statement until at least the end of the year. Therefore, this Sunday, the moratorium’s expiration will open up the opportunity for mining claims. IMA-NA has been focused on this as a key issue area as federal regulation has overstepped and infringed on each state’s right to regulate their own environmental and conservation efforts. For example in Nevada, Sage Grouse is a legally hunted bird, yet in other parts of the western United States, it falls under SFAs. Furthermore, since the early 2000s state and local agencies in California and Nevada along with federal agencies, landowners and businesses have created and enacted successful conservation plans. The 11 western states with populations of Greater Sage-Grouse have all been working diligently to create conservation plans tailored to balance protection of the birds with each states’ needs. This demonstrates both the importance of role state and local conservation plans that can and should be in efforts to protect wildlife.

Secretary Zinke has already issued a memorandum directing BLM to take steps to implement the sage grouse review team's recommendations changing the federal plans. IMA-NA will continue to follow this situation closely and update membership as the situation develops.

Tags:  Endangered Species  Greater Sage Grouse  mining  sage grouse 

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