The U.S. Forest Service closed its comment period asking the public whether to reopen sage grouse conservation plans. The National Wildlife Federation found that over 120,000 comments were submitted requesting the agency to keep the plans how they are. The organization, along with several other conservation groups, analyzed the comments to come up with the number.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke moved to open the collaborative 2015 plans last June following an executive order from President Trump to prioritize energy development.
The U.S. Forest Service announced later that it would seek to review its own plans as well. Since then, the Bureau of Land Management and now the Forest Service have finished comment periods requesting the public’s thoughts on reopening the plans.
Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands for the National Wildlife Federation, said the plans deserve to have time to work, considering the collaborative effort took a decade of compromise to put together.
"Now this administration is saying ‘We’re not so sure we like these plans, even though they were born from the ground through incredible collaborative work.' We hope the federal government says, 'Oh gosh, maybe we shouldn’t reopen these plans’," she said.
Stone-Manning added she’s concerned opening up the plans could result in an endangered species listing.
"The worst possible outcome is that the plans are completely blown up and instead of working together on the landscape, everyone will end up working in court."
The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service will now review the comments and decide whether to open the plans after all.