"Partnerships in action” is more than a feel-good phrase. Folks across the West know what it means and put it to work. We played an active role providing input and cooperating with a diverse group of stakeholders to avoid listing the greater sage-grouse as a threatened or endangered species. As a result of these “partnerships in action”, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service released plans in 2015 and avoided a listing.
I participated in a greater sage-grouse sidebar that took place in Billings to discuss recent Department of Interior orders that reopened the 2015 plans for revision. The meeting consisted of ranchers, conservation leaders, local federal agency personnel, and staff from Montana’s congressional delegation. The consensus from ranchers and conservation leaders was that the plans are not perfect but keeping the hard work of the state working groups, implementing proper training for agency personnel and ranchers, and clarifying how site-specific science and management will be incorporated into the plan is better than starting the whole process over. Staring over with new plans will result in years of additional meetings and lawsuits, leaving federal government agencies to foot the bill and ultimately costing us, the taxpayers.
As a young rancher and owner of an agribusiness, I was motivated by the shared vision that what is good for the herd is good for the bird. The first year of working through the plan on the ground has shown areas that need refinement. Specifically, broad-based grass height standards, roughly-drawn habitat maps, and Sagebrush Focal Area restrictions must be refined to provide site-specific management. Given time to work and refine the details of the plans, continued training of agency personnel, and dialogue with ranchers, we can address troublesome portions of the plan.
As part of the US Cattlemen’s Association, I will be submitting these thoughts as official comments today. I enjoy making a living in this state while also enjoying its incredible public lands. Everyone has a stake in this comment period and should weigh in. Today is the deadline to comment at: http://bit.ly/2xDP7Jd