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  • Sarah Walker

A Bighorn Win - Saving the Sage

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

The Good:

Local Wyoming organizations recently reversed the Bighorn National Forest’s decision to approve aerial herbicide or manual removal of 76,000 acres of native sagebrush and larkspur, a proposal that affected almost 45% of native sagebrush habitat found on the National Forest. To be clear, these treatments weren’t targeted for exotic invasive species like cheatgrass, but historically native sagebrush communities, with obvious impacts to sage grouse and associated sagebrush obligates on our public lands. Detailed and persuasive objection arguments to the hard-to-believe decision persuaded the Regional Office to step in and reverse the local Bighorn National Forest decision.

The Bad:

The final decision still allows and condones an inadequate, amorphous “condition-based management (CBM)” approach that is becoming increasingly common in large, fast-tracked public land projects in Wyoming. This is the same approach we fought against in the LaVA fuels reduction project on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and the most recent draft of the Shoshone National Forest’s Travel Plan. Read the request for CEQ guidance on this topic to learn more about how this ill-defined landscape-scale programmatic approach inherently fails to meet NEPA requirements for site-specific analysis and meaningful public comment opportunities.

The Takeaway:

The public comment and planning process can work! We know it’s taxing to keep commenting on proposed projects impacting your public wildlands, but timely informed public comments can set the stage for effective recourse from higher-up decision makers when we need it most. That’s why we ask for your comments on important wildlands projects early and often. Individuals who don’t comment early aren’t eligible to engage in the objection process on a final decision.

We’re grateful to the Council for the Bighorn Range (CBR), Bighorn Audubon Society, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEE), the Bighorn Native Plant Society, and the Western Watersheds Project for their hard work fighting the worst of this plan. This is a win for a wild Wyoming! Read more from Wyofile here.

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