Monday, November 09, 2015

BLM open to sage-grouse mapping changes

RIFLE — Garfield County officials remain optimistic over possible changes to habitat mapping for the greater sage-grouse in Colorado, changes that those officials said could ease restrictions on development, specifically in the oil and gas industry, while protecting the bird’s habitat in an area northwest of Parachute. The optimism stems from two recent developments: an assurance from the Bureau of Land Management that habitat mapping can change as new data becomes available; and an effort by Colorado’s northwest communities to conduct new habitat mapping across the region. “We’re very hopeful but the devil is in the details,” Fred Jarman, Garfield County community development director, said Thursday evening during a presentation to the county’s Energy Advisory Board. The county maintains its running contention that mapping used in developing the BLM’s sage-grouse protection measures does not take into account detailed terrain changes within the habitat area identified in Garfield County. Alternative mapping by the county took a finer-scale look at the terrain, and concluded the habitat areas were smaller than those identified in the mapping used by the BLM, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said Thursday. “It’s very different than the rolling sagebrush habitat in Wyoming or in Moffat County for that matter,” Jankovsky said of the terrain in northwest Garfield County. The county first learned about the potential for future changes to the habitat mapping during a stakeholder meeting last week, according to Jarman, who added that Colorado Parks and Wildlife — the agency that provided the data for the current state sage-grouse mapping — indicated the map was not intended for specific policy implementation...more

 County officials, and others at the local and state level, have long been concerned over the impacts on oil and gas development, ranching and other land uses resulting from what those officials view as broad conservation measures. Instead, they have argued for a more localized approach. 

Will national policy objectives or local objectives with more accurate data rule the day? You can apply this to the entire West, as the BLM was rushed by politics and a court deadline to complete these RMPs.

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