Letters from the West

Otter tells Jewell she needs to fix BLM sage grouse plan

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter meets today with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Reno and based on his recent letter it could be tense.

In a letter June 18 Otter told Jewell he was protesting the Bureau of Land Management’s plan for protecting sage grouse. Idaho had been a partner in the writing of the plan and it appeared the two sides were moving toward an agreement on the plan.

Otter even told me in May he thought they were “close.”

But then he went on his annual ride with the Idaho Cattle Association and he got an earful about the delineation of “Sagebrush Focal Areas” first unveiled in February.

“A significant concern is the fact that this eleventh-hour top down direction was not properly vetted through the state or my task force,” Otter said in his letter to Jewell obtained by the Idaho Statesman.

These strongholds, which are the places sage grouse are still doing alright, included new language about grazing, lek buffers and also withdrew from mineral entry thousands of miles of habitat.

“Unfortunately, with the exception of some minimal changes to the livestock grazing component, there has not been a genuine commitment from the Department of Interior to work with us to resolve these issues,” Otter said.

So today Jewell is the keynote speaker at the Western Governor’s Association meeting in Reno.

“It is my sincere hope that we can work towards resolving the remaining issues with you and your staff over the next few weeks prior to the end of the consistency review period,” Otter wrote. “However, I need a genuine commitment from you regarding your willingness to make this happen.”