The BLM Deletes Information on the Endangered Sage Grouse, Just Ahead of Public Comment Period

by as published on the Pacific Standard

“One webpage, now removed, touted the current policies’ successes—and praised the bird’s mating dances…”

As the federal government was gathering public input on changes to its plans for conserving an endangered Western bird, it removed webpages describing its current policies, inherited from the previous administration, an advocacy group has found.

The Bureau of Land Management removed a page called “Top 5 Things You Should Know About Greater Sage-Grouse,” according to the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, a group that tracks .gov websites, and which initially formed out of fears that the Trump administration would remove scientific information from government webpages.

The Bureau of Land Management also removed webpages describing what states are doing to protect the sage grouse, a slow and unambitious native bird whose numbers are thought to have declined as much as 90 percent since people began developing its vast habitat of brushland in the American West.

Scientists consider sage grouse to be an indicator species, whose status is a barometer for the ecosystem’s overall health. In 2015, under President Barack Obama, the federal government joined with states, conservationists, and industry, including oil and gas drillers, to hammer out a compromise that would set aside land for sage grouse protection. The compromise kept the United States government from officially listing the sage grouse as endangered, a move that would have barred further development in the areas where the birds live.

But in 2017, land agencies, now under President Donald Trump, began taking steps to alter that agreement and open more land to development. Officials worked closely with mining groups to review the Obama-era sage grouse protections, while not offering environmentalists similar access, as Pacific Standard reported this year.

This spring and summer, the Bureau of Land Management opened up its proposed changes to public comment. But anyone searching for more information about sage grouse on BLM.gov would have missed some previously available resources. A few days beforehand, the bureau removed “Top 5 Things You Should Know About Greater Sage-Grouse,” which touted the 2015 sage grouse agreement’s successes and praised the bird’s bobbing mating dance, according to the EDGI. During the comment period, the bureau also removed some pages describing state sage grouse-saving efforts, and another page explaining that, in 2017, officials had reversed a decision, dating to 2015, to keep 10 million acres of land free from new mining.

The bureau published its final proposals for the sage grouse earlier this month. They give states more flexibility to lift some habitat protections, in order to allow oil and gas mining and other development, if they wish, E&E News reports. The plans are now open for their 30-day “protest period,” during which anybody previously involved in the planning process can register their objections. The period ends January 8th.

9 comments

  1. Per Front Range email: “A group of ranchers organized as a “coalition” have just filed in court to oppose our efforts to stop the government’s sale without limitations of the Devil’s Garden wild horses. They actually want more horses off the range immediately.”

    Like

  2. DETAILED CALENDARS/SCHEDULES FOR HEADS OF AGENCIES

    One of the most important things we can know about high-level officials is their detailed schedules. Who is the head of the EPA meeting with? Who’s been calling the chair of the Federal Reserve? Where has the Secretary of Education been traveling? What groups has the Attorney General been making speeches to?
    Problem is, these crucial documents are almost never readily available. They’re released only due to FOIA requests, and sometimes not even then. I’ve filed requests with dozens of agencies for the daily schedules of their leaders covering the first half of 2017 and (as of early 2018) the second half of 2017. I’ll be posting all the results here, as well as collecting the few calendars (usually from previous administrations) that are posted in the FOIA sections of some agencies’ websites. Keep checking back.
    For an example of the important things that these calendars tell us, check out “E.P.A. Chief’s Calendar: A Stream of Industry Meetings and Trips Home” from the New York Times.
    Latest additions: Dept of Energy /// Dept of Agriculture /// Dept of Transportation /// EPA /// Fish & Wildlife Service /// Dept of Homeland Security /// Dept of the Treasury /// FAA /// Peace Corps /// Food & Drug Administration /// Office of Science & Technology Policy

    Federal Communications Commission
    Chair Ajit Pai: Dec 2015-Dec 2017 [via Taylor Scott Amarel & MuckRock
    ] /// January-June 2017

    https://altgov2.org/calendars/

    Like

  3. FOIA LAND

    This is an ongoing project to collect the FOIA request logs for every U.S. federal agency subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Related material, including internal FOIA processing guides, Mandatory Declassification Review request logs, and Vaughn indexes will also be posted. This project will also include a smattering of material covering cities, states, and other countries. The idea is to see, as much as possible, what documents agencies possess, what documents they’ve released, and how agencies process documents for release (or not).

    FOIA Land will expand rapidly and will be updated regularly. Every addition will be noted on this page, while only major additions will be announced on the front page of AltGov2, on Twitter, and in the newsletter. If you have any FOIA logs or related material to add, please get in touch. Many thanks to Government Attic and MuckRock (and its users) for allowing me to incorporate the logs they’ve liberated. If you appreciate having these treasure maps to government documents, please donate.

    Bureau of Land Management

    https://altgov2.org/foialand/

    Like

  4. Welcome to governmentattic.org

    governmentattic.org provides electronic copies of thousands of interesting Federal Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Fascinating historical documents, reports on items in the news, oddities and fun stuff and government bloopers, they’re all here. Think of browsing this site as rummaging through the Government’s Attic — hence our name. Our motto: Videre licet.
    governmentattic.org has two file sections: FOIA Logs and Documents.
    To get to the actual documents, click on the above links: “FOIA LOGS” or “DOCUMENTS”

    https://www.governmentattic.org/

    Like

  5. The information they “gathered” was paid for by the public, and denying public access is unconscionable if not illegal. Most of the BLM sites today indicate they are not updating due to the Gov’t. shutdown… but that shouldn’t include information already on their sites!

    After some hunting I located their 2017 Socioeconomic data report and was able to save it off. The data is from 2016, but it was presented in Jan. 2018. Here’s some points of interest in the report (FY 2016):

    – “The BLM is committed to keeping public landscapes healthy and productive and to effectively managing border landscapes to keep America safe.”

    – Grazing supports 40,000 jobs (around 2 per permit), Coal 34,000, Recreation 48,000, Timber 3,000, Nonenergy minerals 39,000, Oil and Gas 201,000

    – Grazing brings in $2BILLION (this sharply contradicts a lot of published data, but how they arrived at this enormous number is not disclosed)

    – Recreation brings in $7 Billion, Timber $1 Billion, Geothermal-wind-solar enery $1 Billion, Nonenergy minerals $11 Billion, Coal $11 Billion, Oil and Gas $42 Billion

    – They list the Mustang Challenge as a “nonmarket benefit)

    – National Conservation Lands support 7,000 nonfederal jobs, $460 Million in trip-related purchases, and bring in $630 Million in local and state economies over 36 million acres, including 27 National Monuments (but the study claims to have evaluated the economic contributions of 45 National Monuments).

    “Recreation: The public lands managed by the BLM offer more recreational opportunities than lands managed by any other federal agency, with more than
    99 percent available for recreation with no fee. Lands used for recreational activities also contribute signiƒcantly to local economies. In 2016, BLM lands received more than 64.6 million recreation-related visits, an increase over the previous year.

    Grazing: In 2016, the BLM permitted 12 million animal unit months (AUMs) for ranchers who graze their livestock, mostly cattle and sheep, on public lands. An AUM is the amount of forage needed to feed a cow and calf or the equivalent for 1 month. In 2016, the grazing fee was $2.11 per AUM. While the number of AUMs sold each year remains relatively steady, annual variations in use occur due to factors such as drought, wildƒre, market conditions, and restoration projects.”

    This report includes a diagram which includes grazing “economic output and jobs” state by state. totalling $2.4 Billion (not $2Billion as listed the previous page). Idaho led the category by a significant margin, at $443 Million.

    I found this report as an agenda item for the NV State Legislature, not on the BLM or US DOI sites (where it should be, since we paid them to produce this for the public). It’s only six pages so if this disappears I have saved it off and would be happy to send to RT Fitch on request.

    https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/InterimCommittee/REL/Interim2017/Meeting/4841

    Liked by 1 person

    • PS consider that this report shows just Idaho accounts for $443 Million in economic input from BLM grazing permits, yet the entire national grazing program goes in the red for over $100 Million annually.

      Trying to locate how many federal grazing permits exist in Idaho, this very basic information is not available on the BLM website — no “updates” are available due to the shutdown.

      The Idaho Dept. of Lands site says: “The IDL manages 1,138 grazing leases that cover 1,772,452 acres of endowment land located primarily across the southern two-thirds of Idaho.

      These leases contributed an estimated 258,428 animal unit months (AUM) of forage to livestock operations in FY17.”

      https://www.idl.idaho.gov/leasing/grazing/index.html

      Per this interactive map that includes BLM permits, it seems at least half are indeed BLM permits.
      https://idl.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=3f449b10713748eb90f2dd386751d28a

      GRAZING PERMITS ON FEDERAL LANDS BY STATE
      https://ballotpedia.org/Grazing_permits_on_federal_land

      Idaho by this information hosts 1878 BLM grazing permits

      So 1878 permits bring in $443 Million in “impact”, or around $25,589 per permit annually. That’s about ONE full time job (no benefits) at $12.79/hour per permit.

      Idaho BLM manages only around 700 wild horses:
      “Wild Horses. In Idaho, the Bureau of Land Management currently runs six HMAs across the state. Each HMA has a set amount of horses allowed per acre within the designated area. In 2017, the total number of wild horses in the state hovers around 700 head, spread over 418,000 acres of open land.

      Behind The Stories – Wild Horses – Outdoor Idaho (Idaho …

      idahoptv.org/outdoors/shows/wildhorses/behindthestories.cfm

      Like

  6. CATTLE TRAMPLE SAGE GROUSE RECOVERY PROSPECTS
    New Grazing Data Center Documents Widespread Habitat Damage
    Posted on Nov 10, 2014

    Commercial livestock grazing across the West constitutes perhaps the biggest threat facing the imperiled Greater sage-grouse, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The comments were submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to inform deliberations on whether to list the iconic bird under the Endangered Species Act.

    The comments are based on analysis of data available for viewing on PEER’s new grazing website, which features an interactive map combining range health data received from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with high resolution satellite imagery to enable comparison of BLM’s data with ground conditions that are visible even to the untrained eye. The website represents the most complete and up-to-date look at the results of BLM’s land health status (LHS) evaluations of roughly 20,000 BLM grazing allotments across the West, results that PEER obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

    The Greater sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling bird dependent on large tracts of sagebrush with a healthy understory of grasses and forbs, has declined precipitously across its range due to habitat loss and degradation from livestock grazing, development, mining, agriculture, and oil and gas exploration.
    PEER’s analysis reveals that:

    Overall, 64% of important sage-grouse habitat, and more than 73% of priority habitat is located within more than 9,000 BLM grazing allotments in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, and California;
    More than 15 million acres of priority sage-grouse habitat are in allotments failing to meet standards due to livestock grazing impacts; 90% of this habitat is identified as failing due to current, as opposed to historic, grazing;

    Almost 15 million acres, or 28% of the priority sage-grouse habitat in allotments, lies within allotments that still remain to be evaluated by BLM. BLM began conducting LHS evaluations in the late 1990s.

    https://www.peer.org/news/press-releases/cattle-trample-sage-grouse-recovery-prospects.html

    Like

Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.