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Comment periods extended for sage grouse  

Credit:  Written by Staff Report | Reno Gazette-Journal | Nov. 12, 2013 | www.rgj.com ~~

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Carson City District have extended the comment period for the Bi-State Sage-Grouse Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

The extension comes after the recent release of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) proposal to protect the Bi-State Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the Greater Sage-grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The document is formally called the Draft Nevada and Northeastern California Sub-regional Greater Sage-grouse Land Use Plan Amendment and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DLUP/DEIS).

The 34-day extension of the draft EIS moves the deadline for the comment period back to Dec. 27, to coincide with the comment period on the proposed listing of the Bi-State DPS sage grouse on announced by FWS on Oct. 25.

“This change in our schedule will allow the public to look at each document and provide comments relative to both,” said Bill Dunkelberger, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest supervisor.

The federal government is taking comment for a draft environmental impact statement that will guide federal government actions in amending resource management plans to conserve, enhance and restore habitat for sage grouse.

The Lyon County Board of Commissioners and Lyon County Public Lands Management Advisory Board (Planning Commission) were scheduled to discuss draft comments at meetings last week.

The extension is designed to make it easier for the public to comment on both the DEIS and the FWS documents. Comments will be shared by the BLM, Forest Service and FWS to revise the proposed plan amendment and address the key threats identified by the FWS in its proposal. The 90-day public comment period on the Forest Plan Amendment DEIS began Aug. 23.

“The listing of the Bi-State sage grouse as a threatened species is a stark reminder that we must work together to protect our rural economies,” U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford said. “In the coming years, there will also be a decision issued regarding the greater sage-grouse population. It is critical that we continue to find ways to work with federal agencies and local stakeholders to address the consequences of any listings.”

Two weeks ago the BLM released draft management proposals to protect the Bi-State sage grouse, which covers a sliver of eastern California and western Nevada. Six possible management alternatives for maintaining and increasing habitat on and managing the more than 17 million acres were included in the proposals, outlined in a 1,000 page document.

The options range from doing nothing to imposing tough restrictions on mining, grazing, vehicle travel and energy development. The six options include one prepared by the State of Nevada and two by conservation groups.

The federal BLM and Forest Service preferred option would allow grazing and most oil, gas and geothermal operations but would close motorized vehicle use in the most sensitive habitat and mining, solar and wind energy development would be blocked in some areas, officials said.

Federal officials say various aspects of the different alternatives could be combined when a final recommendation is made next year.

“It covers a wide range of measures and activities,” BLM spokesman Chris Rose said of plans targeting 17 million acres of grouse habitat in Nevada and northeast California.

“Working together will complement our efforts to conserve the species,” said Bernadette Lovato, BLM Carson City District Manager. “We strongly encourage the public to share information that we can use to ensure that we have a broad analysis prior to finalizing the plan amendments.”

Source:  Written by Staff Report | Reno Gazette-Journal | Nov. 12, 2013 | www.rgj.com

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