Feds look for efficiencies in conservation efforts
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Since wildlife doesn’t recognize the lines on a map that represent political boundaries, it’s important for conservation biologists to know how wild animals move on a regional level.
A new initiative from the Western Governors’ Association may help with those large-scale planning efforts, according to the Bureau of Land Management, which last week announced that it will use state and regional data and maps to help it identify wildlife corridors and crucial habitat.
The maps will be available for the BLM to use as a result of the Western Wildlife Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool, known as “CHAT,” an initiative of the Western Governors’ Association.
“Western states are developing information on wildlife corridors and crucial habitat that the BLM can use in implementing this IM, which will likely reduce our costs and create efficiencies in planning and land use management,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said.
Arizona, Montana, and Washington have already developed state-specific information and data, and a regional-level data set is now available that covers several states in the southern great plains. More states are expected to develop information in 2012, and a West-wide CHAT is expected to be available in 2013.
In 2009, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Energy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Western Governors’ Association regarding coordination among federal agencies and states in the identification and uniform mapping of wildlife corridors and crucial habitat.
“Governors in Western states are working hard to promote new jobs and development, while recognizing the need to protect our wildlife and their habitat,” said Western Governors’ Association chair Chris Gregoire, governor of Washington State. “These tools help achieve our goals and ensure that people planning development projects consider wildlife values early in their planning process.”
Utah Governor Gary Herbert, WGA Vice-Chairman, said, “At a time when we are working hard to reduce government spending, it is appreciated that the BLM is looking to use this cutting-edge wildlife information from state agencies to inform their planning decisions.”
The BLM’s National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy and the Rapid Ecoregional Assessments are two ongoing efforts that will use the CHAT data and maps when appropriate to support planning and management activities.
To read the IM, please visit: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/regulations/Instruction_Memos_and_Bulletins/national_instruction/2012/IM_2012-039.html.
Since the adoption of WGA’s Wildlife Corridors Initiative Report in June 2008, 17 states have become members of the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council. Its members develop policies and tools to identify and conserve crucial wildlife habitat and corridors across the region. The Wildlife Council’s focus is on implementing the CHAT model by 2013, making information on important fish and wildlife habitat compatible across the West and easily accessible to anyone making land use decisions.
Filed under: Environment, federal government, Summit County news, wildlife Tagged: | BLM, Bureau of Land management, conservation, sage grouse, Western Governors Association, wildlife, Wildlife corridor