WASHINGTON – The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking public records connected to Interior Secretary Zinke’s recommendations to undermine important conservation protections for the imperiled greater sage grouse.
The request seeks documents related to Zinke’s establishment of a “task force” and its review of 98 land-use plans governing oil and gas, drilling, mining and livestock grazing on public lands in 11 western states that support dwindling greater sage grouse populations.
“Zinke has all but declared open season on the greater sage grouse,” said Randi Spivak, the Center’s public lands program director. “He’s undermining years of bipartisan cooperation and scientific study to cater to fossil fuel companies and other extractive industries. The public is entitled to know who’s influencing Zinke in his closed-door review process.”
Current sage grouse protection plans were the product of an unprecedented years-long effort by the federal government, states and industries to avoid protecting the species under the Endangered Species Act, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had recommended in 2010. The plans, while not as strong as science recommends, were a big step forward and were undertaken in a fair, transparent process that followed the law and involved the public, scientists, industry and the states.
Zinke’s recommendations, released Aug. 7, could give big oil companies and other polluters new access to vital sage grouse habitat.
“Zinke’s sage grouse review looks a lot like his sham national monument review, which relied on closed-door meetings and cutting out the public,” said Spivak. “When the American Petroleum Institute and the livestock industry cheer about weakening protections on public lands for imperiled species, something is very wrong.”
The Sagebrush Sea habitat supports sage grouse and more than 350 other species including elk, pronghorn, mule deer, golden eagles and pygmy rabbits. These animals are at risk of becoming casualties of the Trump administration’s misguided mission to promote fossil fuel development and other extractive interests at the expense of preserving America’s public lands for wildlife, recreation and water.