This past year, an unlikely group of individuals met for multiple days, in multiple locations, for multiple hours focused on one issue: the greater sage-grouse. Ranchers, like myself, participated in these meetings to ensure our voices were heard and to secure needed certainty on this issue. A listing of the greater sage-grouse on the endangered species list would result in unnecessary regulations and uncertainty for all stakeholders, not the outcome anyone wanted.
The result of these meetings? A compromise and plans that created workable solutions for both producers and the grouse. The plans acknowledged the important role that livestock play in maintaining and protecting greater sage-grouse habitat on our Montana rangelands. Most importantly, the plans created certainty for all land owners and users on moving forward with managing and protecting habitat.
However, now, all of this work that was done might be for nothing as the Department of Interior seeks to unravel the plans and is once again asking for public comments and hearings. The 2015 plans were a result of compromise and haven’t really been given a chance to work. Adjustments might be needed as these plans are put to work, but those changes can happen within the current framework. There is no need to start over from scratch when we have a working product in hand. We must maintain certainty for all land users and owners, and reopening the plans is not the way to do so.