US Won’t List Greater Sage Grouse as Endangered Species

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Govt’ Says Federal Protection Not Needed for Greater Sage Grouse.

The greater sage grouse, a ground-dwelling bird whose vast range spans 11 Western states, does not need federal protections, the Interior Department said Tuesday, following a costly effort to reverse the species’ decline without reshaping the region’s economy. The fight over whether to list the bird as endangered or threatened recalled the battle over the spotted owl 25 years ago, in which federal protection greatly impeded the logging economy. The Obama administration and affected states have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to saving the grouse without Endangered Species Act protections that many argued would threaten the oil and gas industry and agriculture. In a statement, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that an unprecedented land conservation effort has already significantly reduced the threats to sage grouse. “Together, we have shown that voluntary efforts joining the resources of private landowners, federal and state agencies, and partner organizations can help drive landscape-level conservation that is good for sage grouse, ranching operations, and rural communities,” Vilsack said.

Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the greater sage-grouse does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act,” the Interior Department’s website stated on the decision. She says that besides providing a brighter future for an “amazing, scrappy bird,” the decision gives communities and landowners certainty about where development can proceed. Raul Grijalva (gree-HAHL’-vuh) of Arizona says House Republicans attack President Barack Obama when his administration lists a species as endangered and attack him when it decides against a listing, comparing the rhetoric to a game of “Mad Libs.” Grijalva is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Over the last century, the bird lost roughly half its habitat to development, livestock grazing and an invasive grass that’s encouraging wildfires in the Great Basin of Nevada and adjoining states. Groups including the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Audubon Society said Tuesday’s announcement shows cooperation between government and private interest groups can preserve imperiled species.

The administration also worked with state governments to adopt their own habitat protection plans, which included local restrictions on energy development and setting aside private and public lands as habitat. The Independent Petroleum Association, meanwhile, says the land use plans will hurt the country’s smaller oil and natural gas producers, which operate about 95 percent of its wells.

At the center of the fracas has been Wyoming, home to roughly 40 percent of the bird’s population and a hub of fossil fuel development, with huge potential for wind energy and uranium mines. Efforts to avoid protections in Wyoming have resulted in a significant impact: No drilling may take place near vital sage grouse breeding grounds during nesting season.

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