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08/11/2016 16:58:46 MDT
Understanding the Draft RMP Amendment/Draft EIS

The Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendment/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) details the BLM’s plan to conserve and promote the recovery of the Gunnison Sage-Grouse on BLM surface and split-estate lands across its range in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah.
The Draft RMP Amendment/Draft EIS (Draft):
•    Provides analysis of four possible management alternatives for maintaining or increasing Gunnison Sage-Grouse abundance and distribution across the range of the species.

•    Identifies a BLM preferred alternative (D), while presenting a full range of alternatives for consideration.

•    Could amend up to 11 existing BLM land use plans to provide consistent management of Gunnison Sage-Grouse habitat on BLM-administered public lands.

•    Addresses issues identified through internal and public scoping, including Gunnison Sage-Grouse habitat; energy and mineral development; recreation and travel management; lands and realty; livestock grazing; fire; vegetation management; special management areas; socioeconomics; and invasive species.

•    Identifies and analyzes environmental and economic impacts of each alternative.
The Draft DOES NOT:

•    Apply to private lands.

•    Make a final decision.  The BLM will formulate a proposed alternative after reviewing and considering public comments.

The Range of Alternatives

While the BLM is required to identify a preferred alternative, a full range of potential alternatives is presented for consideration.  The resulting proposed alternative will be influenced by public comment and could include a blend of management direction from each of the four alternatives analyzed.  Therefore, it is important for the public to review and provide comments regarding each of the four alternatives.  The draft alternatives provide a range of potential BLM management direction:
Alternative A (No Action) Alternative A  would continue current management direction under existing BLM land use plans governing the seven BLM field offices, three national conservation areas, and one national monument within the planning area.

Alternative B Alternative B emphasizes management actions that primarily benefit the Gunnison Sage-Grouse and its habitat.

Alternative C Alternative C emphasizes management actions that minimize or compensate for impacts from resource uses and other actions to varying degrees.

Alternative D (Agency Preferred) Alternative D is the agency-preferred alternative, reflecting the BLM’s preliminary identification of a combination of management objectives, actions, and restrictions that could effectively preserve Gunnison Sage-Grouse habitat and mitigate threats to the species within the planning area.  Identification of a preferred alternative is not a final agency decision.

Alternative D is represented by two sub-alternatives:  Sub-Alternative D1 provides proposed management direction for the Gunnison Basin Population of Gunnison Sage-Grouse, while Sub-Alternative D2 reflects management direction for the six satellite populations (Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa, Crawford, Monticello-Dove Creek, Piñon Mesa, Poncha Pass, and San Miguel Basin).
Habitat Types

The BLM has jurisdiction only over public lands and sub-surface mineral estate that the agency manages.  This RMP Amendment/EIS does not make decisions on private or state lands or on lands administered by other federal agencies.  About 40 percent of Gunnison Sage-Grouse habitat (approximately 740,000 surface acres) within the planning area is administered by the BLM.  In addition, the plan applies to approximately 1.3 million acres of federal minerals.

For purposes of this BLM planning effort, Gunnsion Sage-Grouse habitat is identified as falling within the following categories:

Occupied Habitat
Occupied Habitat for this RMP Amendment/EIS consists primarily, but not exclusively, of occupied critical habitat designated by the FWS under the Endangered Species Act.  In order to meet the purpose of and need for this RMP Amendment/EIS and comply with the BLM’s multiple use and sustained yield mandate, the BLM has determined the need to augment FWS-designated critical habitat to include the following areas:  

•    An area of vacant/unknown and a small area of occupied habitat (as defined and delineated by Colorado Parks & Wildlife) not included in the FWS-designated critical occupied habitat.  
•    The Poncha Pass population area – Because they concluded that the Poncha Pass area is not a landscape capable of supporting Gunnison Sage-Grouse, the FWS did not include the area in their final occupied critical habitat designation.  However, because the Poncha Pass area currently does support Gunnison Sage-Grouse, the BLM will treat it as viable habitat unless and until it no longer meets the criteria.
•    Specific split estate properties containing BLM-administered federal minerals not included in the FWS critical habitat designation – Certain areas already afforded protections through state and local conservation easements and agreements were excluded from FWS designation.  Some of the excluded surface areas contain split estate (with sub-surface minerals administered by the BLM) and have been identified as occupied by and essential for the continued conservation of the Gunnison Sage-Grouse.  While the BLM considers the FWS determination to be appropriate for the surface lands, excluding these properties from the BLM planning area would exclude the sub-surface mineral estate from management direction under this RMP Amendment/EIS.  

Unoccupied Habitat
Unoccupied critical habitat designated by the FWS under the ESA forms the extent of Unoccupied Habitat analyzed by the BLM in this Draft.  Unoccupied Habitat consists of specific areas outside of those occupied by Gunnison Sage-Grouse at the time of the listing that have been determined to be essential for the conservation of the species.

Non-Habitat Areas within Four Miles of a Lek
In addition, because disruptive activities outside of Occupied and Unoccupied Habitat could affect the Gunnison Sage-Grouse and its habitat, disruptive activities occurring within four miles of a lek in Non-Habitat Areas adjacent to Occupied and/or Unoccupied Habitat are identified in management prescriptions in the Draft.