Conservation groups blasted the Wyoming sage grouse plan amendment released last week by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S.Forest Service. The proposed plan covers the Red Desert and upper Green River valley, two of the three remaining population strongholds for sage grouse nationwide.

Erik Molvar, Wildlife Biologist with WildEarth Guardians, said “ the Wyoming proposed amendments are so wishy-washy that they are a recipe for continuing the 50-year decline in sage grouse populations across the state.”

Molvar said "discretionary language dominates the standards in the agencies’ Preferred Alternative, stating that industrial impacts known to be detrimental to sage grouse would be “avoided” rather than excluded or prevented, that science-based conservation measures would be “considered and encouraged” but not required, and applying protections “when possible,” “when practicable,” and “when necessary.”  Molvar said "this type of language grants agencies broad latitude in deciding later whether sage grouse protection measures will be applied or waived when industrial projects are proposed inside lands identified in the plan amendment as Priority Habitats."

Molvar said there is "plenty of room on our public lands for sage grouse and commercial uses, but sage grouse protections need to take precedence over fossil fuel extraction inside the Priority Habitats established for grouse conservation.”

Western Watersheds Project had filed a lawsuit highlighting weaknesses in sage grouse protections for existing Wyoming plans, and as a result a federal judge ruled that current sage grouse management violated several federal laws for the Pinedale Resource Management Plan, with rulings pending on the other plans. These legal deficiencies were addressed in one of the alternatives that the agencies are not proposing to adopt.

The greater sage grouse is under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act across its range, with a final listing decision due by September 2015. More than half of the remaining worldwide population of greater sage grouse lives in Wyoming. Public lands covered by the plan include the BLM’s Pinedale, Rock Springs, Rawlins, Casper, and Newcastle Field Offices, as well as the Medicine Bow National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grassland.