BOCC approves request for sage-grouse comment period extension

County attorney suggests 60 additional days

By Olivia Lueckemeyer

Responding to the nearly 1,000-page document outlining how the BLM proposes to manage the Gunnison Sage- grouse habitat is proving time-consuming, so county attorney David Baumgarten appeared before the Gunnison Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, September 20 to request permission to apply for an extension of the comment period.

Baumgarten cited two reasons he believes an extension is necessary: the document is “long and complex” and requires considerable attention; and other counties with whom Gunnison County partners, such as Delta County, which has also requested an extension, are faced with commenting on not only this particular draft environmental impact statement (EIS), but a few others as well.

“There is no downside to asking for an extension,” Baumgarten said. “It may be that our comments can be withheld or postponed strategically to help us in a negotiation.”

In November 2014, to the chagrin of many environmentalists, the Gunnison Sage-grouse was listed as “threatened,” instead of “endangered,” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. When the draft EIS was released last month, many in favor of stronger protection condemned the plan as weak, while energy industry representatives labeled the plan restrictive.

Baumgarten said he and commissioner Jonathan Houck had conferred with the various “powers that be” in the state, and none objected to the idea of requesting an extension.

“We want to make sure that this is a good time to ‘go slow to go fast,’ and to make sure our comments have depth and necessary detail,” Houck said.

A request for no less than 60 additional days to review the document and submit comments was made. The board unanimously approved the motion to allow Baumgarten to request the extension through the BLM.

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