Montana Audubon

Montana Audubon works at the local, state and national policy levels to protect our natural heritage.

Protect Clean Water & Sage-Grouse

Two Alerts – One Notice –Act TODAY

Please take time to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Act Rule (COMMENTS DUE TUESDAY) AND/OR the protection provisions in the Bureau of Land Management’s Resource Management Plans for Greater Sage-Grouse (DUE FRIDAY) (Photo above: American Dippers live on headwater streams. USFWS photo). SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS:

Lots of Montana birds depend on wetlands and headwater streams, including American Avocets (photo by Dan Pancamo).

Clean Water Act – Comments Due Tuesday

When: Comment Deadline: Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What: Tell the EPA you want the Clean Water Act Rule on “Waters of the United States” to protect all tributary streams and adjacent wetlands.

Who: Address your comments to: Administrator Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency

Where: Submit your comments by going to and submitting your comments to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0480.

Comments should emphasize (pick your reason/s (use one of these reasons or all four – change the introductory sentence to ensure your comments are counted as unique):

  • The definition of “Waters of the United States” must apply to all tributary streams and adjacent wetlands throughout Montana, plus other waters that science shows to be important. We need to protect our drinking water, businesses, outdoor recreation, fish and wildlife, outdoor recreation economy, and jobs.

    Clean drinking water is essential.

  • Everyone knows that the health of larger water bodies depends on the health of smaller water bodies. Make sure the Clean Water Act Rule protects all headwater streams.
  • The current Clean Water Rule (which defines “Waters of the United States”) is solidly grounded in wetland and stream science. In addition, the rule is accepted as meeting legal standards for what is covered under the Clean Water Act. Any revisions of this rule must also be grounded in science—and not on a new and unlawful standard.
  • I support strong Clean Water Act protections for small streams and wetlands because I depend on clean water to (FILL IN THE BLANK: drink, run my business, support my fishing habit, etc.).

Sage-Grouse Plans – Comments Due Friday

Male Greater Sage-Grouse displaying. Photo by Bob Martinka.

When: Comment Deadline: Friday, December 1, 2017

What: Tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) you do not want the agency to change provisions in their Resource Management Plans designed to protect Greater Sage-Grouse.

Who: Address your comments to Secretary Ryan Zinke, US Dept. of Interior

Where: Submit your comments by email: [email protected] OR online:

Montana BLM Plan boundaries.

A Little Background: Altogether, the BLM is proposing to weaken sage-grouse protections in 98 resource management plans in 10 states. These plans were completed in 2015 after years of negotiations with various entities. In Montana, there are six BLM plans that are likely to be amended: Billings Field Office (which contains the Pompey’s Pillar National Monument Resource Management Plan), the HiLine District, the Miles City Field Office, the Lewistown Field Office, and a plan for Idaho and Southwestern Montana.

Central Montana sagebrush habitat.

Comments should emphasize (pick your reason/s (use one of these reasons or all five – change the introductory sentence to ensure your comments are counted as unique):

  • The BLM Resource Management Plans were part of a larger collaborative effort to prevent sage-grouse from being listed as an endangered species. If changes are made, they need to be state-specific, and preferably site-specific. To quote a spokesman from the Wyoming Mining Association on its position on making sweeping changes to federal BLM Resource Management Plans: “listen to the states and avoid wholesale changes.”
  • The Plans adopted have helped federal agencies avoid the need to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse under the federal Endangered Species Act. If the Plans are significantly weakened, these grouse could become protected under the ESA, which would trigger more restrictive land use policies in Montana than exist today.

    Male Greater Sage-Grouse. BLM photo.

  • Sage-grouse populations have been declining for a number of reasons, but the primary reason for their decline is the loss of habitat through fragmentation. It is important to retain measures to reduce destruction and fragmentation of habitat.
  • The BLM Plans were developed using the most current and credible science. Therefore, any changes need to also be based on the best available science. It is important to maximize protections in these Plans for the most important sage-grouse habitats that has been identified.
  • Protection of BLM land alone won’t prevent Greater Sage-Grouse from becoming an endangered species, but with more limited means to protect sage-grouse on private lands (about 64% of sage-grouse habitat in Montana), it is all the more important that a higher level of protection be applied to BLM lands (19% of sage-grouse habitat in Montana is on BLM land).

Male Sage-Grouse displaying on leks. Bob Martinka photo.

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