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Forest Service proposes changes to sage-grouse plans

Cara J

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The U.S. Forest Service has released proposed changes to land management plans in five Western states intended to better protect greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), along with a draft environmental impact statement analyzing those changes. The proposal, which incorporates new information about sage-grouse conservation, aims to “improve the clarity, efficiency and implementation” of 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse Plan amendments, it says, and is intended to better align with Bureau of Land Management and state plans. The changes would affect sage-grouse habitat on 5.32 million acres of national forests in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. Proposed changes would replace the designation of “sagebrush focal areas” with “priority habitat management areas,” and change the adaptive management framework to align with BLM and state-based adaptive management systems. They would revise livestock management guidelines to remove restrictions on water developments and replace specific grass-height requirements with standardized evaluation methods. The changes would also further emphasize invasive plant management by adding a plan objective that stresses treatment of invasive plants in priority habitat management areas.  In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to list sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act, determining that voluntary, cooperative efforts by state and federal agencies, along with private landowners, [...]

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