As we have stated in our earlier articles, the listing by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) of the Greater Sage-Grouse as a “Threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) represents an enormous threat to access to the Public Lands.
The listing and subsequent designation as Critical Habitat affects public lands in ten western states totaling 47 million acres. In Nevada, approximately 17 million acres are to be designated. We expect, in the best case that this listing and designation will cause seasonal closures of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Forest Service (USFS) lands during the mating season, the worst case could result in permanent closures of this Critical Habitat. We expect that the Western Watershed Project (greens) will not be content with the listing as Threatened, but will continue to their goal of listing as an Endangered species which certainly would close this Critical Habitat permanently.
While the Critical Habitat designation only affects Public Lands and not private property, ranching, mineral exploration, alternative energy development and many other uses will be affected, both on public and private lands. The economic impact of this listing and designation is far-reaching and has not been comprehensively studied.
The joint BLM/USFS planning document for the management of these Nevada public lands is called the Draft Nevada and Northeastern California Subregional Greater Sage-Grouse Land Use Plan Amendment and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DLUP/DEIS).
In Western Nevada, the FWS set aside a portion of the California and Nevada Greater Sage-Grouse population and habitat affecting five Nevada counties and three California counties, designating it as the Bi-State Distinct Population of the Greater Sage-Grouse (DPS). The DPS identifies 1.8 million acres as Critical Habitat. The area runs from just south of Gardnerville and Dayton, NV in the Pine Nut Mountains, through the Sweetwater Mountains south of Wellington all the way to the White Mountains southeast of Bishop, California.
The final date to comment to the FWS on the listing and designation for the DPS is December 27, 2013.
The final date to comment on the joint BLM/USFS DEIS for the DPS which identifies the management of the public lands with regard to the FWS listing is January 25, 2014.
The final date to comment on the Nevada and Northeastern Nevada DLUP/EIS is January 29, 2014.
If you are interested in learning more and/or commenting on either the DPS or the BLM/USFS EIS, the following links will take you there.
- For the FWS listing of the Bi-State DPS as a Threatened Species in the Federal Register: http://www.regulations.gov In the Search box, enter FWS-R8-ES-2013-0072.
- For the FWS listing of the Bi-State DPS Critical Habitat in the Federal Register: http://www.regulations.gov In the Search box, enter FWS-R8-ES-2013-0042.
- For the joint BLM/USFS Bi-State DPS DEIS: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project+40683
- For the Nevada and Northeastern California DLUP/DEIS: http://on.doi.gov/14ZD3Rb
The following is the comment letter submitted by N4WDA to FWS concerning the listing and designation:
November 22, 2013
Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2013-0042 and FWS-R8-ES-2013-0072
Division of Policy and Directives Management
US Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203
The Nevada Four Wheel Drive Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the aims and goals of our membership whose recreational livelihood is dependent upon multiple uses of public lands.
We welcome the opportunity to submit these comments on their behalf:
• Recreation, especially OHV and trail riding recreation, has never been comprehensively studied yet recreation is listed as a threat in the rulemaking. The USFWS, although pledging to only use “good science” in its proposed listing, has used “no science” in declaring recreation a threat. Such a declaration, not based on scientific fact, strongly suggests an agenda with a predetermined outcome.
Until such a comprehensive study of the effects of recreation on the Sage-Grouse and its habitat is published, we will oppose these proposals.
• The head of the USFWS certified that the requirement to perform a regulatory flexibility analysis, as required under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA), was unnecessary because the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The USFWS deemed that only those entities directly regulated by the rulemaking (BLM and USFS) are subject to analysis, excluding private small businesses that may be affected, due to the agency’s interpretation of recent of the act and recent case law.
Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 require the agency make costs and benefits analysis and take into considerations impacts to both directly and indirectly impacted entities, including small businesses.
According to the briefing at the public meeting held in Wellington, NV, on November 6, 2013, Edward D. Koch, the Nevada State Supervisor, when queried, stated that this analysis has not been performed.
We feel that the head of the agency erred by suppressing the intent of the RFA and SBREFA in the determination and certification that the RFA requirement to evaluate the effect of this proposal on small businesses was unnecessary. The proposed critical habitat directly affects ranching, mineral exploration and other small businesses, such as those dependent upon recreation.
Without this analysis available to the public, it is impossible to determine total costs and benefits of this proposed Critical Habitat determination. Until this information is available and can be evaluated, we will oppose these proposals.
• USFWS performed poorly in providing information about the proposals to the public. The agency, with little notice (the Federal Register Intent to List as Threatened and the Proposal to Determine as Critical Habitat appeared in the Federal Register on November 1, 2013) the two meetings (in Bishop, CA on November 5th and Wellington, NV on November 6th) allowed no lead time for the public to arrange to attend. The Wellington, NV meeting could hardly be called worthy of being a Federal Agency meeting, obviously planned to expect a poor turnout due to the 1-3 PM meeting time on a workday. The meeting was organized to be a meet & greet format, with USFWS, BLM and USFS personnel available. We can only imagine the surprise of the agency when several hundred attendees appeared at their “stealth” meeting. Unfortunately, except for a few, the representatives wore no name tags, uniforms or insignia, therefore looking like the rest of the meeting attendees; most did not have business cards at their disposal. Initially there was no speaker system set up, resulting in shouted questions and answers when Mr. Koch finally took the stage. Additionally there were inadequate handouts, particularly maps, available.
Because of poor public notification for these proposals, and until further meetings are scheduled with reasonable lead times between notice and the meetings, we will oppose these proposals.
The listing of the Sage Grouse appears to be the first step to curtail grazing on public lands, and will very likely lead to additional burdensome government regulation of the American cattle ranching industry. The direction in which USFWS is proceeding seems to be similar to that which was used to nearly wipe out the timber industry in the northwest. The premise regarding the northern spotted owl as a separate species is false. Spotted owls are called stryx occidentalis, and they range from British Columbia to Mexico. They differ in their morphology (what they look like), and they interbreed where their “boundaries” coincide. The spotted owl has not become extinct, and in fact has survived in new forests as well as old growth forests.