The Utah Association of Counties supports the lawsuit filed by the State of Utah in U.S. District Court challenging the 2015 Greater Sage Grouse Land Use Plan Amendments and Final EIS of the BLM and Forest Service.
The Greater Sage Grouse land use plan amendments, the subject of Utah’s lawsuit, are essentially as restrictive as an official Endangered Species Act listing of the bird would be. The land-use plan amendments threaten to negatively impact the quality of life and livelihoods of untold numbers of residents and stakeholders in Utah counties who live, work on, use and enjoy the public lands.
The challenged plan amendments are inconsistent with the State of Utah’s thoughtful and aggressive Conservation Plan for Greater Sage-Grouse and maps and we believe violates the consistency mandate of NEPA, the Federal Land Policy Management Act and the National Forest Management Act and applicable regulations.
Utah’s Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Plan provides effective methods to manage and ensure the species can thrive while minimizing disruption to residents and stakeholders. Utah’s plan is the result of years of considerable planning by the Utah Division of Wild Resources, the Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office, affected counties and other stakeholders. In disregarding Utah’s Conservation plan, the BLM and Forest Service have arbitrarily ignored countless hours of productive efforts by local working groups in Greater Sage Grouse-affected counties that was intended to identify threats to the birds and to implement conservation actions to mitigate species risks. These good-faith-efforts and commitment to species protection have been arbitrarily overridden by the actions of these agencies.
It is the hope of the Utah Association of Counties that the Federal Courts will see the merits of Utah’s legal challenge and order the BLM and Forest Service to adhere its Greater Sage Grouse land use plan amendments. It is further our hope that this action will lead the agencies to fairly evaluate Utah’s Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Plan and to take steps to coordinate, in a meaningful way, with sage-grouse affected counties to develop land use plan amendments.