State of Idaho moves to intervene in sage grouse lawsuit

Friday April 26, 2019

State’s action defends its collaborative plan to save the bird from extinction and preserve multiple use of public lands in Idaho

Boise, Idaho – Governor Brad Little, the State of Idaho, and Idaho Legislature moved to intervene in a federal lawsuit Thursday to defend the federal Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recently-adopted sage grouse plan amendments.

The BLM plan amendments are based on the Idaho plan developed with a thorough process involving a broad variety of stakeholder groups including the state, land users, and conservation groups.

Four environmental litigation groups, including three out-of-state groups and Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project, asked for an injunction last week to block Idaho's sage grouse plan.

“A diverse set of stakeholders and experts worked tirelessly to develop a state plan that meets the needs of sage grouse in Idaho,” Governor Little said. “I am confident the court will recognize that our plan strikes the appropriate balance between conservation and multiple use.”

The State of Idaho devoted significant time and resources working with federal agencies to develop a locally-tailored plan that protects and enhances sage grouse habitat in Idaho, while also maintaining predictable levels of land use.

“Preservation of state-managed species is best accomplished collaboratively and with the support of those stakeholders impacted. Idaho’s plan exemplifies that philosophy,” Governor Little added. “Challenging Idaho’s collaborative plan for sage grouse recovery is short-sighted and discourages states and stakeholders from working together to develop these types of plans in the future.”

In 2017, the Department of Interior committed to working with the western states to incorporate many of the state-specific conservation measures that were disregarded in favor of a one-size-fits all management framework adopted during the Obama Administration.

“It is unfortunate that we are in the position of defending a plan that was so broadly supported across Idaho,” Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said. “Instead of focusing all of our efforts into implementing Idaho’s plan for the benefit of sage grouse, we are forced to divert efforts toward defending the plan in court.”

The primary threats to sage grouse in Idaho are wildfire and invasive plant species. Over the past several years, the state has made significant investments in measures meant to enhance sage grouse populations. In 2013, the state established Rangeland Fire Protection Associations, which now prevent and combat wildfires on federal, state, and private rangelands across 3.7 million acres of sage grouse habitat. The Idaho Legislature also has appropriated $2.75 million for habitat improvement projects and other efforts aimed at reducing threats to sage grouse.

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