Western Energy Alliance Releases All Sage Grouse Emails, Calls on Environmental Lobbyists to Do the Same

by Kathleen Sgamma, President on October 25, 2017 - 8:57am

Environmental Groups Should Follow Our Lead & Release Their Emails

Monday, an environmental group filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit asking for communications between Western Energy Alliance, other industry groups and the Department of the Interior regarding sage grouse. The group, Western Values Project (WVP), is trying to make the case that our industry has had undue influence on the sage grouse review team as a way to discredit Interior’s effort to rewrite the sage grouse plans.

While it might be nice to be driving the train over at Interior, Western Energy Alliance is not alone in asking for changes to the one-size-fits-all federal sage grouse plans. As much as WVP would like to discredit the rewrite that Interior has just undertaken, the fact is that a whole range of stakeholders across the West has been pushing for the changes. States, counties, ranchers, mining and environmental groups all sued over the 2015 plans, as we did, because the process was so flawed. WVP is choosing to focus on us because environmental groups like to make the oil and natural gas industry the boogeyman. WVP even put together a chart claiming we asked for all the changes and Interior simply did our bidding.

For example, we’re given “credit” for getting Interior to agree that the Fish & Wildlife Service shouldn’t have a veto on BLM land management decisions, but counties and states complained even louder than we did, including Democratic Governor Hickenlooper. We’re tagged as the ones that convinced Interior to revise the flawed habitat mapping in the federal plans, but counties such as Garfield County, Colorado complained the loudest that the federal plans ignored all the good mapping information counties provided.

Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of angst about those plans throughout the West, and there’s good reason for the Interior Department to redo the plans to better take into account state and local conservation efforts. That’s an agenda that a broad coalition of westerners has been legitimately driving, including Western Energy Alliance.

Helping WVP Out

But we understand WVP’s frustrations. The government is big and bureaucratic, and FOIAs routinely take much longer than they’re supposed to by law. Western Energy Alliance made several FOIA requests during the Obama Administration that took years to resolve.

But we have a soft spot for WVP, as the group was created a few years back in direct response to Western Energy Alliance’s success driving messaging on western public lands issues. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so we’d like to return the favor.

To help WVP out, we’re releasing all our communications with Interior’s Sage Grouse Review Team, as requested in WVP’s lawsuit. Our emails all can be found here and here. I know WVP will be disappointed because there’s nothing juicy in the emails–just submissions to the public docket that are already publicly available, routine press announcements from Interior, and a letter to the Sage Grouse Review Team summarizing our public comments on sage grouse. We’re one of many stakeholders communicating appropriately with the federal government and we have nothing to hide.

In this spirit of transparency and openness, we call on WVP and all environmental groups engaged on sage grouse issues such as the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Defenders of Wildlife, to name just a few, to follow our lead and release all their communications with the Interior Department between August 2011, when BLM embarked on its sage grouse planning strategy, and September 22, 2015 when the final sage grouse plans were announced by Secretary Jewell. Then we can compare and see which groups really colluded improperly with the government.