The Board of County Commissioners approved agreements for working on projects with local federal agencies during its regular meeting on July 21.
The BoCC accepted an invitation from the state BLM office to serve as a “cooperating agency” on a Gunnison sage grouse study.
The BLM intends “to formulate a plan amendment (or) environmental impact statement that sets forth an effective strategy for conserving Gunnison sage grouse habitat on BLM-adminstered public lands.”
The proposed study will involve the bird’s entire range in 10 Colorado counties and in two Utah counties.
Delta County officials said that the two-year study won’t necessarily affect a scheduled November decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on possible endangered species listing for the bird.
Delta County is one of 11 counties in the region that has taken a pro-active approach to initiating local efforts for protecting the bird’s habitat in hopes of forestalling an endangered species listing by the federal government.
An endangered species listing for either or both of the birds would create massive economic dislocations for communities and municipalities across wide areas of the intermountain west, local public officials say.
Local governments including Delta County, along with ad hoc groups and private landowners, have spent multiple millions of dollars in a decade-plus-long effort to maintain the bird’s population levels. Federal wildlife officials have not demonstrated how an endangered species listing would protect the bird any better than current local and private efforts.
On two other local projects involving the federal government, the county commissioners accepted agreement changes for two initiatives with the GMUG. The first will provide an additional $80,000 of federal money for paving work at the County Line Trailhead parking area. The second will provide an additional $45,000 maximum for culvert work on Old Grand Mesa Road at Kiser Creek.
In other business at their July 21 meeting, the commissioners acknowledged a report that the BLM would conduct a competitive coal lease sale on July 30. The county commissioners had previously supported the competitive sale in its official comments on the Spruce Mountain environmental impact statement, noted county administrator Robbie LeValley.
According to the BLM, the sale is the “result of a lease by application filed by Bowie Resources. The coal lease is for 1.79 million acres containing an estimated 8.02 million tons of recoverable coal and is located in Delta County.”
Being in Delta County, coal mined from the lease area would generate higher severance tax revenue here than if Bowie were mining under Gunnison County.