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BLM opens sage grouse plan to possible changes - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

BLM opens sage grouse plan to possible changes

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BILLINGS - The Bureau of Land Management approved of a plan two years ago that would keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list.

BLM officials talked about possible changes to that plan that many say involved people on both sides of the issue. The agency’s Montana/Dakotas office held two meetings on Wednesday.

The BLM says the plan from 2015 was what it calls "cookie cutter" or "one size fits all." Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to give people a chance to comment and possibly change and adjust certain parts.

Some see this as a complete change.

The scoping meetings helped to explain the current plan and gave the public a chance to comment. The 2015 plan is being implemented. The BLM can modify policy, but certain changes will require a more involved amendment process.

Some say they're concerned changes might affect the sage grouse population and that many different groups agreed to the plan.

"We don't want to roll back the entire plans and start from scratch,” said John Bradley, eastern Montana field representative for the Montana Wildlife Federation. “That's unfair to the westerners who put so much time into it. An endangered species listing would be harmful for all Montanans, our western way of life, and so we really need to work that that is avoided at all costs."

Zinke's "concerns are that we didn't fully engage the states and our partners in the development of the initial plans,” said John Carlson, sage grouse lead for the BLM’s Montana-Dakota office. “This was, I think, in response to other states' concerns about plans in their states. But we're not seeing a lot of that concern arise in Montana yet."

The BLM had originally set Nov. 27 as the end of the public comment period. But during the meeting, it received word that it would allow more time will now accept comments until Dec. 1.

Several other offices in the west also are holding scoping meetings this month.

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