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BLM changes sagebrush habitat management policies, likely won’t impact Washington

UPDATED: Sat., Jan. 6, 2018, 8:16 a.m.

FILE - In this May 9, 2008, file photo, male sage grouses fight for the attention of a female southwest of Rawlins, Wyo. The Bureau of Land management has changed sagebrush habit policy guidelines allowing some grazing and oil and gas leasing. (Jerret Raffety / AP)
FILE - In this May 9, 2008, file photo, male sage grouses fight for the attention of a female southwest of Rawlins, Wyo. The Bureau of Land management has changed sagebrush habit policy guidelines allowing some grazing and oil and gas leasing. (Jerret Raffety / AP)

CONSERVATION - The Bureau of Land Management has changed sagebrush habit policy guidelines allowing some grazing and oil and gas leasing. The new policy reverses an Obama-era rule mandating that BLM offices prioritize placing drilling and grazing projects outside sage grouse habitat, according to a news release.

“This means that the BLM does not need to lease and develop entirely outside of habitat management areas before it can consider leasing and development within sage-grouse habitat management areas,” the news release states.

The new guidance likely won’t impact Eastern Washington’s sagebrush habitat, said Jeff Clark, the BLM’s spokesman for the Spokane District. The new guidance impacts Primary Habitat Management Areas, he said.

“Our amount of habitat and population is so small that we have Primary Areas of Conservation or PACs,” he said in an email. “We will continue to protect these PACs while planning for any future projects to ensure we minimize impacts to them.”

There is no BLM managed sage grouse habitat in Northern Idaho.

“The updated policies are in response to concerns raised by the states, local partners and our own field staff,” said Brian Steed, BLM’s Deputy Director for Programs and Policy in a news release. “They were developed from the ground up with the goal of improving sagebrush habitat while permitting measured economic and recreational activity.”