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The environment desk at Aspen Public Radio covers issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the state of Colorado including water use and quality, impact of recreation, population growth and oil and gas development. APR’s Environment Reporter is Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.

Garfield County Commissioners question science behind Greater Sage Grouse reports

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The Garfield County Commissioners are questioning the science behind a handful of reports about the greater sage grouse. The Bureau of Land Management is using the data in a document that will guide management of the bird’s habitat in northwestern Colorado. 

Parts of Garfield County are home to the greater sage grouse, whose population is shrinking. Its vast habitat includes eleven western states. In September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will determine whether it should be listed as endangered.

On Monday, the Garfield County commissioners threw their support behind three challenges waged by a coalition that includes the Western Energy Alliance. The so-called Data Quality Act Challenges question the scientific integrity and transparency of reports by the USGS, BLM and Fish and Wildlife Service. Fred Jarman is the county’s director of Community Development.

"There are serious fundamental flaws in all of those documents. Whatever the BLM ultimately does, they should reevaluate this body of work."

The county wants to avoid a federal listing and instead manage the bird through state, local and private conservation efforts. Commissioners are preparing to submit an opinion to the BLM on its Final Sage Grouse Environmental Impact Statement. It’s due out in early June. It will guide management for federal lands and minerals over 1.7 million acres of BLM and National Forest lands. An additional 2.8 million acres of public subsurface mineral estate would also be affected by the plan.