WildEarth Guardians accuses the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho of removing nearly 4 million acres from a previous plan to protect sage grouse habitat, and not being transparent about it. The environmental and wildlife advocacy group wants to see the threatened bird listed under the Endangered Species Act.
But Idaho BLM spokesperson Don Smurthwaite says the accusation isn't true. He says the plan, released in May, included public input.
“The numbers are actually very much the same," Smurthwaite said. "If you look back at BLM plans for sage grouse three or four years ago, we counted about 11 million acres as needing some kind of protection [in Idaho and southwest Montana]. And if you look at our numbers today, it’s about 11 million acres still.”
He says the acres were not removed, but instead 3 million were re-categorized from being “priority” acres to being “important” acres. Smurthwaite says the main difference in the categories is “important” land can be developed for things like mining and hydropower.
But he says WildEarth Guardians isn’t the only group unhappy with the final plan: others contend the government has gone too far in trying to protect the bird.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether the sage grouse should be listed under the Endangered Species Act by the end of September.
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