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A Message from the Audubon Rockies Regional Office

March 29, 2020

Our Federal Administration in Washington, DC continues its
relentless attacks on all things environmental. [Chuck Almdale – Ed.]

Hello California Chapter leaders and members,

My name is Daly Edmunds and I’m the Policy and Outreach Director for Audubon Rockies, a regional office of National Audubon Society (WY, CO, UT). I’ve reached out to your chapter in previous years, in efforts to organize chapters around issues to protect Greater Sage-grouse. While many parts of our country are shutting down in response to COVID-19, the Department of Interior is continuing its efforts to weaken important protections for Greater Sage-grouse.  While we’ve shifted our personal and work lives around at Audubon, we’re still fighting hard for birds and could use your help!

Yesterday, we circulated an action alert to all National Audubon Society members across the country.  I’m hoping that your chapter will help Greater Sage-grouse (as their populations continue to decline across the range, including in California) and the sagebrush ecosystem … hence my email to you.   I’ve also included some educational resources at the bottom of this email, which I hope you’ll find useful.

I’m reaching out to you because the Department of Interior/Bureau of Land Management is planning to make decisions that impact sage-grouse in California – notably in northeastern CA, where there are sage-grouse populations that are considered part of the western population (along with sage-grouse in nearby NV). This is separate from the Bi-State population.

REQUEST: 

  • Due to a court-order, BLM has re-opened up its public comment opportunity around their federal resource management plans for sage-grouse … deadline is April 6.  Please consider share this link to Audubon Grouse Action Alert with your members – via email and/or social media channels, encouraging them to speak-up for sage-grouse protections and balanced management of our public lands.

Background: What Happened

In 2015, after years of work by a wide range of stakeholders in your state —states, ranchers, conservationists, industry, scientists, and federal agencies— sound conservation plans were adopted by the BLM.  The 2015 plans included strong science-based protections for the bird’s most important habitat and assurances that there would be limits to the amount of habitat damaged, which were the foundation for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding that the species did not warrant federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. These plans also ensure sustainable economic growth for communities across the West.

Between 2017 and 2019, the Department of the Interior systematically attacked these popular bi-partisan plans. In March 2019, the 2015 plans were formally amended, resulting in weakened protections in important sage-grouse habitats in the BLM plans.  In October 2019, a U.S. District Court judge in Boise granted a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of BLM’s changes to the 2015 sage-grouse conservation plans.  The federal court found that the federal administration failed to consider how sage-grouse would be impacted by the BLM’s changes to the 2015 conservation plans.  The BLM’s 2019 changes permitted expanded drilling, mining, grazing and other activities on sensitive sage-grouse habitat in ID, WY, UT, CO, NV, CA and OR. In the court’s words, the impact of the changes to the 2015 plans “was to substantially reduce protections for sage grouse without any explanation that the reductions were justified by, say, changes in habitat, improvement in population numbers, or revisions to the best science.”  Additionally, the court ruled “the record shows that the 2019 Plan Amendments were designed to open up more land to oil, gas, and mineral extraction as soon as possible.”

Now What…

In late February 2020, the BLM – under guise of responding to the federal court’s concerns – has opened up another public comment period. But in fact, BLM is proposing more of the same. BLM continues to disregard science and undermine needed protections for important sage-grouse habitat.  We need strong conservation actions – those that were agreed to in 2015, which respects the years of work that went into developing the plans … not only in California, but elsewhere too.

 You can help by weighing in with the BLM, as they are asking for public comments. Tell BLM to maintain Greater Sage-Grouse protections. The deadline to comment is Friday, April 6.  We are joining our conservation partners – who have fought together for years for balanced management of our public lands – to make sure the BLM hears loud and clear from the public that they should honor their 2015 commitment to protect important sage-grouse habitat.

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES RE: SAGEBRUSH ECOSYSTEM:  Either you’re homebound with kids yourselves (and are struggling!) or know of others who are (and are struggling!!). This is an opportunity for the Audubon network to help our neighbors, while building a connection/appreciation for the natural world.  Here are some resources that you are welcome to share on your chapter’s social media sites, webpages, and newsletters.  And if you have resources to share with us, please do so!!

  • Sagebrush steppe habitat flashcards (click here to download): You’ll find plants, the animals that eat the plants, the animals that eat those animals, and then the clean-up crews that recycle the living matter to make it available to start the cycle again.
  • Rockie’s Sagebrush Adventures! This online illustrated book follows a Burrowing Owl and her friends as they discover what life in the sagebrush is all about.
  • Sagebrush Ecosystem Poster and Lesson Plan (click here to download):Through this free lesson plan and poster, students will discover the plants and animals of the sagebrush ecosystem. Students can take it further by researching a habitat and creating a poster depicting the plants and animals that live there. Students will then draw parallels between the habitats, what animals need to survive, and their place the food web.

Thank you for all you each do for birds, our natural world, and for our communities.

I sincerely hope you’re doing well during these uncertain times, and while you’re trying to stay sane at home, perhaps finding joy in some unexpected places!  Please know that this email comes to you with encouraging thoughts and hope for improved conditions for everyone.

Warmest regards from Colorado,

Daly
——

Daly Edmunds
Policy and Outreach Director
c: 307.760.7342

Audubon Rockies (WY, CO, UT)
215 West Oak Street, Suite 2C
Fort Collins, CO 80521
https://rockies.audubon.org/

 

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