Idaho landowners and leaseholders may find themselves – and their property and lease rights, severely restricted in the coming year. The reason? The Greater Sage grouse. Or perhaps better stated, those who wish to see it become listed as an endangered species.
Though Fish and Wildlife currently has until 2015 to decide if the bird will be listed as endangered, Western Watershed Project, a private environmental group, has sued Fish and Wildlife, disputing the timeline stating that “the Sage grouse can’t afford to wait to 2015.”
Meanwhile, in late December, the BLM released two instructional memorandums temporarily governing sage grouse habitat in 10 Western states. One memo covers mining, oil and gas leasing, grazing and other common activities on public land. The other memo stated BLM employees must consider all applicable conservation measures in large-scale resource management planning for BLM lands that include sage grouse habitat. The BLM memorandums will remain in effect until individual land-use plans can be updated for each of 68 habitat areas.
Scoping meetings were held throughout the state and much of the west this week by BLM. 27 in all, these meetings are being held to assist the BLM in deciding the fate of 47 million acres of not only public but also private land in 10 western states. The decision at question? Whether the lands should be withdrawn from mineral exploration, grazing, and other multiple uses to protect sage-grouse breeding grounds and habitat.
This move comes at the potential expense to individuals, businesses, and industries that rely on the same land without giving them opportunity to make responsible decisions on its stewardship and use.
If strategies similar to those already implemented in Wyoming are considered, strategies lauded by environmental groups as “setting the bar”, then landowners can expect to suffer significant rights losses. Just ask private landowner, rancher and Wyoming resident Doug Cooper. Cooper, whose land has been in his family since his grandmother homesteaded it in the 1890s, had developed and stewarded his family’s property responsibly, and as a result, had significant portions of his acreage that remained ideal Sage grouse habitat while still allowing him to run several hundred head of cattle. He had also begun negotiations with Clipper Windpower to begin harvesting wind on his ranch, a move that was expected to bring his family $2.4million over 30 years. Today, because of the effectiveness of Cooper’s personal stewardship, much of his ranch has been coded as “core area”, meaning he is banned from developing it to access his wind rights. Clipper Windpower has left the table, choosing instead to contract with bordering state-owned lands that were drawn outside the core area boundaries, though they represented the same type of habitat that Mr. Cooper had on his ranch.
“The Wyoming constitution says you can’t lose property right without due process of law,” he (Cooper) says. “It’s shocking to me that we would lose our wind rights.”
Lakeview, Ore.: Jan. 17, BLM Lakeview District Office 1301 S. G St.
Alturas, Calif.: Jan. 18, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 507 E. Fourth St.
Susanville, Calif.: Jan. 19, Jensen Hall, Lassen County Fairgrounds
Ontario, Ore.: Jan. 23, Four Rivers Cultural Center, 676 SW Fifth Ave.
Baker City, Ore.: Jan. 24, Baker County Library, 2400 Resort St.
Burns, Ore.: Jan. 25, Harney County Senior Center, 17 S. Alder Ave.
Twin Falls, Idaho: Jan. 25, Canyon Springs Red Lion Inn, 1357 Blue Lakes Blvd.
Prineville, Ore.: Jan. 26, Stafford Inn, 1773 NE Third St.
Pocatello, Idaho: Jan. 26, The Clarion, 1399 Pocatello Bench Road