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Gov. Hickenlooper urges BLM to consider Colorado alternative for greater sage grouse

DENVER — Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 — Gov. John Hickenlooper today urged the Bureau of Land Management to consider a Colorado state alternative as it crafts a final Resource Management Plan to protect the greater sage grouse on federal lands in northwestern Colorado.

 

This alternative was developed with input from local communities in northwestern Colorado, as well as the conservation community. That input was important in crafting this alternative that first recognizes the need to protect and preserve this iconic species while providing for continued and future economic vibrancy of this region of the state.

 

"I want to thank those in the northwestern areas of Colorado, as well as the staff at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, for working with us to develop this state-focused approach," Hickenlooper said.

 

"I want to thank those in the northwestern areas of Colorado, as well as the staff at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, for working with us to develop this state-focused approach," Hickenlooper said.

 

Submitted with Hickenlooper’s letter were formal comments from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) that provide a scientific perspective on the proposed Plan.

 

In his letter, Hickenlooper encouraged the BLM to consider the significant progress made through public/private partnerships for greater sage grouse conservation on state and private lands in any approach to conservation on federal lands. And he noted the critical role public lands play in the economic vitality of the region.

 

“The communities of northwestern Colorado rely on access and productivity associated with public lands for their livelihood. With that in mind, any plan that the BLM ultimately promotes must accurately assess the socio-economic values that link people to the land in that area,” Hickenlooper wrote.

 

Since 2000, the State of Colorado has spent over $40 million on greater sage grouse conservation efforts for the species. These expenditures include conservation planning and implementation, land protection, population and habitat monitoring, habitat treatments, restoration, research, and communications.

 

Since 2004, CPW state wildlife managers have protected more than 74,000 acres of greater sage grouse habitat, primarily through conservation easements. About 24,000 additional acres are managed by other conservation interests such as The Nature Conservancy and Cattleman’s Land Trust.

 

More than 50,000 acres of greater sage grouse habitat have been improved through treatment since 2000. Working closely with private landowners, CPW has contributed to the 273,000 acres now managed through Wildlife Mitigation Plans, Grazing Plans, Ranch Management Plans, and Habitat Suitability Plans.

 

Hickenlooper also encouraged the use of adaptive management as a key tool for managing bird populations and urged such an approach instead of reliance on so-called “disturbance caps” that can create more formal and less flexible limits on land use.

 

“Adaptive management is a widely accepted tool for managing resources. Rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all prescription, we urge the BLM to consider local conditions before, during, and after any tools are deployed. In places with healthy and thriving bird populations, restrictions should be more flexible; in locations with struggling bird populations, restrictions should be tighter. Those parameters should then be revisited regularly. Evolving science will help us better understand what the species needs to succeed,” Hickenlooper wrote.

 

Finally, he urged BLM to work cooperatively across sectors and interests in its conservation efforts for the species.

 

“When industry and agriculture are key players in the development of a conservation plan, we all stand to benefit. Reconstituting and strengthening the role for local working groups in the northwestern region is one way we might guarantee a seat at the table for all stakeholders as this effort progresses,” Hickenlooper wrote.

 

“Colorado has a long track record of success working across party lines to find cooperative agreement in how we manage our iconic natural resources.”

 

A copy of the letter can be found here.

 

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