Ranchers pack BLM’s sage grouse meetings
By Eric Mortenson
If attendance at the first two meetings about the Bureau of Land Management’s sage grouse management plan are an indicator, Oregon cattle ranchers and others have a lot of questions they want answered.
About 175 people attended a BLM open house Jan. 6 in Prineville, and an estimated 300 packed a meeting in Burns the following day, according to the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. The next meetings were scheduled Jan. 8, in Ontario at the Four Rivers Cultural Center, and Jan. 9 in Baker City at the county Events Center.
The series of open houses continues over the next two weeks with meetings in Lakeview, Jordan Valley and Durkee.
The preferred alternative listed in the BLM’s draft Environmental Impact Statement for recovering the sage grouse would eliminate grazing on 118,000 acres of federal land in eastern Oregon. The sage grouse is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
While the grazing prohibition impacts only 1 percent of the BLM’s grazing land, it amounts to a “punch in the face” for cattle ranchers who depend on those allottments, said Bob Skinner, public lands chairman for the cattlemen’s association.
“If you’re in the 1 percent, it’s the end of the world for you,” said Skinner, a Jordan Valley rancher.
The deadline for comments on the plan is Feb. 20.