Governor reacts to proposed status for Whitebark pine and Thunder Basin Grassland plan amendments

Wyoming News December 4, 2020

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Governor reacts to proposed status for Whitebark pine and Thunder Basin Grassland plan amendments

CHEYENNE, WYO. – Governor Gordon has expressed concern about a proposed “threatened” status listing for whitebark pine and thanked the U.S. Forest Service for the timely release of the Thunder Basin National Grassland Plan Amendment for prairie dog management.

Today the US Fish and Wildlife Service published a proposed finding for whitebark pine in the Federal Register which would list the species as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Whitebark pine is a high-elevation species found in Wyoming that is an important food source for wildlife. It is currently threatened by a non-native fungal disease called white pine blister rust. The USFWS has not found any human activities to be major threats to whitebark pine. The proposed rule protects operations, including grazing and logging, under Section 4 of the ESA (also known as a “4(d) rule”). In addition, the proposed rule does not propose any critical habitat designations.

“While the inclusion of a 4(d) rule is encouraging and avoids undue burdens for private landowners and businesses, any listing under the ESA is concerning,” Governor Gordon said. “Wyoming always seeks to avoid the need for listing and will remain committed to working with our federal partners to approach species conservation in a pragmatic manner.”

Also today, the US Forest Service released the Final Record of Decision for the Thunder Basin National Grassland Plan Amendment for prairie dog management. This marks the end of an approximately 18-month planning process for this project.

“I remain appreciative of the Forest Service’s attention to urgency on this matter and adherence to the timeline they laid out at the beginning of the process,” the Governor said. “This is an important plan for Wyoming. It is an intersection of maintaining ranching communities and species conservation in a patchwork of surface ownership. I thank the Forest Service for the continued inclusion of my office and the state agencies throughout this process.

As both of these federal actions move forward, the Governor’s Office and state agencies will continue to be involved and monitor any further developments.

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