Feds Decide Against Endangered Listing for Greater Sage-Grouse

By Penny Starr | September 24, 2015 | 3:23pm EDT
Sage grouse (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – In a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife has determined that it is not necessary to protect the greater Sage-grouse in 11 western states by listing it as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

“Today I’m proud to mark a milestone for conservation in America,” Jewell said in the video. “Because of an unprecedented effort by dozens of partners across 11 western states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the greater Sage-grouse does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act.”

“An unprecedented, landscape-scale conservation effort across the western United States has significantly reduced threats to the greater sage-grouse across 90 percent of the species’ breeding habitat and enabled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to conclude that the charismatic rangeland bird does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” a press release announcing the decision stated. “This collaborative, science-based greater sage-grouse strategy is the largest land conservation effort in U.S. history.”

A group of attorneys responded to the decision with a blog expressing the “relief” felt by western states that would have been impacted by the listing.

“On September 22, energy developers in the West breathed a sigh of relief when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the greater sage-grouse does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” BakerHostetler’s North America Shale Blog said in an online posting on Wednesday. “The FWS noted that in 2010 it believed that ‘habitat loss, fragmentation, and inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms’ could warrant ESA listing for the grouse.

“Yet five years later, focused public-private conservation partnerships have borne fruit, as FWS now says that “[b]ased on the best available scientific and commercial information, we have determined that the primary threats to greater sage-grouse have been ameliorated by conservation efforts implemented by federal, state, and private landowners,’” the blog stated.

“BakerHostetler’s 80-attorney energy team is comprised of lawyers across the U.S. who are leaders in their respective fields in representing oil and gas clients,” according to its website.

The blog called the decision a “joint stewardship success story” that will benefit the energy boom in the United States.

“The past five years have seen a world-class boom in U.S. unconventional oil production, with a sizable share of that coming from the Intermountain West and basin and range country the sage-grouse inhabits. Indeed, Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming, which provide core sage-grouse habitat, have seen crude oil output double since the FWS began to consider listing the grouse in 2010,” the blog stated. “These states now produce approximately one of every 12 barrels of crude oil pumped in the U.S. each day.”

In the video, a vast landscape of sagebrush is shown as Jewell’s narrates.

“The greater sage-grouse is an amazing bird – unique to the vast sagebrush landscapes of the American West,” Jewell said. “One that historically used to ‘darken the skies’ as vast numbers took flight.”

Jewell also listed the threats to the Sage-grouse, including wildfires, weather and human development, but the overall message conceded that the states can manage their land and its resources without federal regulations.

“The FWS’s September 30, 2015 deadline to review the status of the species spurred numerous federal agencies, the 11 states in the range, and dozens of public and private partners to undertake an extraordinary campaign to protect, restore and enhance important sage-grouse habitat to preclude the need to list the species,” the announcement stated.

“This effort featured: new management direction for BLM and Forest Service land use plans that place greater emphasis on conserving sage-grouse habitat; development of state sage-grouse management plans; voluntary, multi-partner private lands effort to protect millions of acres of habitat on ranches and rangelands across the West; unprecedented collaboration with federal, state and private sector scientists; and a comprehensive strategy to fight rangeland fires,” it added.

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