Blog

State Management Plans Are the Only Path to Successful Sage Grouse Conservation

The House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing to review the success of Western State sage grouse management plans and the need for continued local control over sage grouse management. Western States sage grouse management plans have been the primary driver of improvements to the species range-wide.

[T]he federal government under the Obama administration insisted on managing Greater Sage Grouse recovery with a Washington, D.C., one-size-fits-all approach that fails miserably to address the individual management challenges present in each state. The purpose of today’s hearing is to provide further evidence that state and local control leads to lasting success. States have consistently proven to be masters at caring for their own lands and wildlife, and sage grouse is no different,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said.

In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that listing the Greater Sage Grouse as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act was not warranted. Instead, the Obama administration developed an equally-restrictive de facto listing scheme by amending 98 Western resource management plans.

The Obama administration’s de facto sage grouse listing and the 20 year mineral moratorium on ten million acres of land has been one of the greatest threats to the livelihood of western communities. Some of the most stifling consequences of the Obama era regulations were targeted at businesses,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said. “Thankfully President Trump’s Department of [the] Interior cancelled the massive proposed withdrawal allowing job creators and hardrock miners to get back to work.”

Decades of activist litigation and efforts by the Obama administration to circumvent successful state management plans have been “bad for the West, bad for jobs and bad for sage grouse,” according to Idaho Speaker of the House and fifth generation rancher Scott Bedke.

In the process of placating anti-grazing activists, federal agencies have made the number one threat to the Greater Sage Grouse in Idaho worse. In fact, these federal amendments, if left to stand, will create an explosive wildfire situation throughout the Great Basin,” Bedke added.

In 2017, Bedke’s family ranch lost their entire winter grazing allotment due to overly prescriptive federal land use restrictions. A wildfire, which could have been easily contained by local firefighter, was allowed by federal managers to grow out of control burning tens of thousands of acres of prime sage grouse habitat.

My home state of Colorado has spent more than ten million dollars, set aside 130,000 acres for habitat and is developing a mitigation marketplace all for protecting the sage grouse,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said.

State management plans have been developed with local stakeholders and experts on the ground for more than a decade to address unique and varying geographic differences within their boundaries.

It should be no surprise that Western States are actively implementing plans within their respective states that are having positive impacts on habitats,” Chairman of the Eureka County Nevada Commissioner, Vice Chair of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Federal Lands Committee and Fourth Generation Cattle Producer J.J. Goicoechea said.

Utah, for example, spends an average of $5 million a year protecting sage grouse, and has seen the state population of sage grouse steadily increase since 1990. The state has been especially successful at mitigating the threat of catastrophic wildfire within sage grouse management areas.

I am here to do more than just share a feel good success story of a program that is working. I am here to protect these programs,” Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources Darin Bird, in reference to the state’s management strategies, stressed.  

Similarly, in Montana, male sage grouse are up 153% compared to 2014 numbers due to the investment of almost $8 million in conservation funds in 2016 to restore over 1,000 acres of critical sage grouse habitat.

Click here to view full witness testimony. 

Bills to Modernize Endangered Species Act Advance Through Committee

The House Committee on Natural Resources passed five bills to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:

The ESA is a landmark statute created with noble intent. It also includes fatal design flaws that inhibit greater success and handicap state-led, science-based recovery strategies. These flaws must be addressed and the law must be modernized. This slate of bills provides a framework for this discussion that we will build upon in coordination with the Senate, Trump administration, states and all interested stakeholders. I thank the bill sponsors for their work on these important pieces of legislation and look forward to our work ahead.”

H.R. 424 (Rep. Collin Peterson, D-MN), the “Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017,” reissues the final rules from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to delist the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes region and maintains effective state wolf management in Wyoming. The bipartisan bill passed by a vote of 26-14.

H.R. 717 (Rep. Pete Olson, R-TX), the “Listing Reform Act,” allows for the consideration of economic factors in threatened listing decisions. It also provides flexibility to agencies’ prioritization in processing listing petitions, which relieves FWS from excessive litigation and allows more resources to be used for species conservation and recovery. It passed by a vote of 22-13.

H.R. 1274 (Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-WA), the “State, Tribal and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act,” fosters greater cooperation between the federal government and states by ensuring state, local and tribal scientific data is factored into ESA species listing decisions. The bill passed by a vote of 22-14.

H.R. 2603 (Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-TX), the “Saving America’s Endangered Species Act” or “SAVES Act,” removes duplicative permitting requirements for interstate movement of nonnative endangered species enhancing opportunities for conservation. The bipartisan “SAVES Act” passed by a vote of 23-16.

H.R. 3131 (Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-MI), the “Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act,” combats the recent proliferation of ESA-related litigation by capping attorneys’ fees to the same reasonable levels allowed for other types of citizen lawsuits against the government. It passed by a vote of 22-16.

Click here to view full markup action. 

Bishop Statement on Sage Grouse

Department of the Interior has announced plans to reverse the former administration’s 10 million acre mineral withdrawal across six western states, overhaul the de facto Sage Grouse listing and improve management of the species through greater state input. Chairman Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:

These withdrawals were never about Sage Grouse conservation. It was all a ploy to assert more federal power, ignore actual data and best science, and diminish the influence and authority of states. States have proven to be more than capable of managing wildlife and conservation within their borders and will continue to be the best advocate for the species.  

“Secretary Zinke is developing a better policy through input from states and people on the ground with local knowledge and expertise.”

Subcommittee Chairmen Respond to Antiquities Act Reform Legislation

The Committee has marked up H.R. 3990, the “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” or “CAP Act.” Introduced by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), the bill protects archeological resources while ensuring public transparency and accountability in the executive’s use of the Antiquities Act.

“The Constitution gives to Congress alone the jurisdiction over public lands. While the executive should be able to move swiftly to protect small archeological sites from imminent threat of looting or desecration, the decision over whether to set aside vast portions of land in perpetuity should only be made after the lengthy debate, public input and accountability that are the unique attributes of the legislative branch,” Subcommittee on Federal Lands Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) said.  

“Our government works best when it works with the people it serves to accomplish objectives for the common good. For too long, our leaders have not adhered to these principles. The ‘National Monument Creation and Protection Act’ seeks to protect the public’s interests from executive overreach through collaboration with local stakeholders, comprehensive review of monument designations and congressional direction on any future presidential monument reductions. I thank Chairman Bishop for his leadership on this issue and look forward to passage of this important legislation,” Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) stated.

“When Teddy Roosevelt created the Antiquities Act, his intent was to set aside unique areas of land, not to cutoff millions of acres for the federal government to control that produces no revenue or benefit – all while hurting local governments. Through the years, the abuse of this power has snowballed to a point where President Obama designated more acreage during his Presidency than all other Presidents combined. This process unfairly eliminates local input altogether and severely limits the public’s access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities as well as reasonable resource development on their public lands. It is important that the decision to designate or expand national monuments is returned to Congress, where the local citizens and communities can have a say,” Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Chairman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) said.

“This legislation secures a future for locally supported national monuments, checked executive authority, and empowered local governments. The original intent of the Act is upheld and strengthened with measures that bring us into the twenty-first century. I firmly believe this will provide the accountability we need when it comes to protecting our lands,” Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) stated.

“Regardless of political affiliation, presidents on either side of the aisle shouldn’t be able to create massive new national monuments by executive fiat without local public input. It is, after all, the people living near these national monuments that are most affected by their creation. Our nation’s public resources are best managed when the people that use those lands are intimately involved in the process. Chairman Bishop’s ‘National Monument Creation and Protection Act’ protects private property rights and empowers local stakeholders while also including important clarifying definitions that should have been included in the original law. I am grateful for his strong leadership on this issue and am proud to be a cosponsor,” Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said.

Bishop Statement on Antiquities Act Reform Bill

Chairman Bishop announced the introduction and markup of the H.R. 3990, the National Monument Creation and Protection Act (CAP Act). He released the following statement

“The 1906 Antiquities Act was originally intended as an executive tool to protect historical and archeological artifacts and structures under threat. Regrettably, this worthy goal has been manipulated for ulterior political purposes. Today the Act is too often used as an excuse for presidents to unilaterally lock up vast tracts of public land without any mechanism for people to provide input or voice concerns. This is wrong.  

“This legislation provides for accountability in the Act’s uses. It modernizes the law to restore its intent, allowing for the protection of actual antiquities without disenfranchisement of local voices and perspectives. It standardizes and limits the president’s power to reshape monuments.

“If my colleagues are serious about their calls for accountability under this Act – no matter which party controls the White House – they will support this bill.”

Committee Passes Legislation to Require Transparency, Public Input in Antiquities Act

The House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 3990, the “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” or the “CAP Act.” Introduced by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), the bill protects archeological resources while ensuring public transparency and accountability in the executive’s use of the Antiquities Act.

“Congress never intended to give one individual the power to unilaterally seize enormous swathes of our nation’s public lands… Our problem isn’t President Obama or President Trump. It’s the underlying law – a statute that provides authority to dictate national monument decisions in secrecy and without public input. The only path to the accountability we all seek – no matter which party controls the White House – is to amend the Act itself,” Bishop stated.

“Under this new, tiered framework, no longer would we have to blindly trust the judgement or fear the whims of any president. The bill ensures a reasonable degree of consultation with local stakeholders and an open public process would be required by law. It strengthens the president’s authority to protect actual antiquities without the threat of disenfranchising people.

“Ultimately, if enacted, it will strengthen the original intent of the law while also providing much needed accountability.”   

Click here to view Chairman Bishop’s full opening statement.
Click here to view full markup action.
Click here for more information on H.R. 3990.  

BLM third quarter oil and gas lease sales hit combined $170.7 million

In keeping with the Administration’s goals of promoting America’s energy dominance, seven Bureau of Land Management state offices generated $170.7 million in bonus bids during their quarterly oil and gas lease sales. Among these sales, rights to a total of 218 parcels, covering 134,834.71 acres were sold.

“Oil and gas lease sales on federal land directly support domestic energy production and President Trump’s energy dominance goals for America,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “These sales provide critical revenue and job growth in rural America. We will continue to work to cut the red tape and improve processes to ensure regulations serve their intended purpose.”

“These successful lease sales reflect our sound energy policy, which draws from the vast, untapped energy reserves right here in America,” said acting BLM Director Michael D. Nedd.

BLM New Mexico had the largest sale of the quarter, generating approximately $130.9 million in bonus bids on Sept. 7. Wyoming held the second-largest sale of the quarter on Sept. 21, generating $38.7 million in bonus bids.

BLM Colorado’s sale, held on Sept. 7, totaled $602,088 in bonus bids. In BLM Montana/Dakotas, bonus bids totaled $305,802 in a sale held Sept. 12. Sales that same day in Nevada and Utah brought in $33,120 and $8,204, respectively. In Eastern States, bonus bids totaled $201,018 in lease sales held on Sept. 21.

The Sept. 7 sale in New Mexico is also the largest federal onshore sale so far this year, followed by an earlier sale in Wyoming, in February, which generated nearly $129 million in bonus bids. 

“The Secretary’s strategy for energy dominance is working and will continue to bear fruit,” said Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito. “This pace is a reflection of our responsible energy policy and administrative changes that are making Interior a better place to do business.”

“This is a strong step towards restoring trust and partnership with our local communities who rely on our responsible energy leasing as a source of job growth and revenue to the states to fund schools, fire and police services, roads and bridges and other municipal needs,” said Katharine MacGregor, Acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals. “Energy development on public lands is a win-win for our nation’s energy future as well as economic growth in rural America.”

Fifty percent of the revenue from lease sales goes to the state where the oil and gas activity is occurring, while the rest goes to the U.S. Treasury. If producing wells are produced on the lease parcel, the royalties paid on the Federal minerals are also shared with the state.

This year’s pace of lease sales has exceeded that of calendar year 2016 in terms of number of sales held and bonus bids. 

For example, with this quarter’s sales, the BLM has held 20 of the scheduled 29 onshore oil and gas lease sales this year around the nation. Those sales combined have brought in $316.2 million in bonus bids. This contrasts with all of 2016, during which time the BLM held 20 onshore oil and gas lease sales and generated $192.5 million in bonus bids.

A bonus bid is a one-time payment in exchange for exclusive access to explore a parcel and grants an exclusive lease for a set period of time. The BLM awards oil and gas leases for a term of 10 years and as long thereafter as there is production of oil and gas in paying quantities. 

The BLM’s all-of-the-above approach to energy development includes oil and gas, coal, strategic minerals and renewable sources, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, which can all be developed on public lands.

The BLM’s policy is to promote oil and gas development if it meets the guidelines and regulations set forth by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and other subsequent laws and policies passed by the U.S. Congress. The sales are also in line with the Trump administration’s America First Energy Plan, which includes development of fossil fuels and coal, as well as renewable energy.

In fiscal year 2016, oil and gas development on BLM-managed lands supported 201,000 jobs nationwide and contributed more than $42 billion in output to the U.S. economy.

For more information about BLM oil and gas lease sales, please visit https://www.blm.gov/programs/energy-and-minerals/oil-and-gas/leasing.