Sage Grouse Saga Continues With Public Comment Period On Proposed Idaho Changes

May 14, 2018

Last June, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke opened federal sage grouse management plans approved in 2015 to state scrutiny.

When Secretary Zinke invited states to suggest changes to the sage grouse plans last year, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter applauded the move.

BLM Idaho spokesperson Heather Feeney says the goal is to bring state and federal objectives closer together.

“Just clarifying in the plans and aligning the management actions in the plans to reflect that the primary threat is wildland fire and not activities like livestock grazing,” Feeney says.

Some environmental groups say sage grouse protections shouldn’t downplay the threat of gazing.

The proposed changes include removing almost 2,500 acres from the strictest category of protections. The area is southeast of Challis, known as Donkey Hills.

But rather than being the kind of flat, sagebrush steppe landscape that sage grouse love, Feeney says, “It’s actually a wooded type of vegetation system and it’s not suitable as sage grouse habitat.”

She notes the area is a good example of where state-specific knowledge comes in handy for protecting a species that crosses 11 state lines. All the proposed changes are open for public comment until August 2.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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