Photo courtesy of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department
An Idaho judge issued an injunction Oct. 16 temporarily blocking the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from implementing its 2019 management plan for greater sage grouse across seven states, including Wyoming.
Gov. Mark Gordon said in an Oct. 17 statement that he’s disappointed with the decision, adding Wyoming’s sage grouse implementation team has developed a plan over the last decade that balances protection for the species while maintaining responsible development.
A lawsuit brought by four environmental groups prompted the injunction, claiming that the BLM and U.S. Forest Service minimized potential harm by segmenting the analysis into subregions without conducting a range-wide evaluation.
“The 2019 plan amendment did not substantively change greater sage-grouse protections; it better aligned the BLM with what Wyoming has had in place. Lawsuits like this only prevent Wyoming from continuing the collaborative work that we have already been doing. They do not afford the bird any more benefit and only act as a roadblock,” Gordon said. “Wyoming’s Core Area Protection Strategy continues to stay its course. I will be closely monitoring this as the court moves towards a final decision on the 2019 amendment.”
The current sage grouse management plan was updated in 2015.
The four groups named in the lawsuit are WildEarth Guardians, Prairie Hills Audubon Society, Western Watersheds Project, and the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re grateful the judge spared the sage grouse from Bernhardt’s despicable and illegal plan to open every last acre of their BLM-managed habitat to fracking,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity in an Oct. 16 press release. “The court’s decision is a victory for public lands and the spectacular wildlife that rely on undisturbed western sagebrush landscapes. This ruling gives this beautiful bird a better shot at avoiding extinction.”