By Lukas Eggen
Ely Times Staff Writer
The Bureau of Land Management held a public meeting surrounding its draft environmental impact statement surrounding greater sage grouse habitat and possible measures to protect sage grouse habitat. The EIS listed six alternatives, with alternative D listed as the preferred alternative. It’s aimed at balancing competing human interests, land uses and the conservation of natural and cultural resource values, while sustaining and enhancing ecological integrity across the landscape, including plant, wildlife and fish habitat.
BLM Branch Chief for Renewable Resources and Planning Joe Tague, who traveled across parts of northern California and Nevada to discuss the DEIS and inform the public how to submit better written comments to the BLM. The DEIS is available at www.1.usa.gov/1gh2IQP. The public can submit comments electronically and via mail. Comments can be submitted online at www.on.doi.gov/I4ZD3Rb or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments can be mailed to BLM-Greater Sage-Grouse EIS, Attn.: Joe Tague, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno, NV 89502.
“The comments have to be more substantial to be considered,” Tague said. “If you send a response that says I like this alternative or that alternative it will be noted and put into a pile. It’s not a voting type process. So we’re looking for comments on the management actions and what combination of the things we’ll pull together.”
Once the public comment period ends, the BLM will begin the process toward releasing a Record of Decision by the end of September in order to be considered before the Fish and Wildlife Department decides whether to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species.
“Fish and Wildlife will be making their listing decision in FY 2015, which starts Oct. 1, so after Oct. 1 they can make their decision,” Tague said. “We want to have our ROD out so they can consider it in their listings. (That means) we will not be extending our public comment period.”
The public comment period ends Jan. 29. Comments must be received on or before this date and comments received after will not be considered.
Once the public comment period ends, the BLM and its cooperating agencies will go through each submitted comment to come up with a proposed plan. Once the plan is unveiled, there will be a protest and review period. Only people who submit comments can protest the proposed plan. As the BLM and its cooperating agencies work to come up with a proposed plan, Tague said it’ll be a difficult task, but that changes will come.
“We’ll be sitting down with our partners and try to wade through it and come up with what’s best for our management, the habitat and the bird, the industry and try to balance as much of it,” Tague said. “It’s going to be different than it is now. We know what the answer is if we keep our current practice...there are going to be changes. It’s how do we make changes that we can accommodate that. We won’t meet everybody’s needs. We’re hoping to come out with something that’s workable.”