Good news for Sage Grouse

513px-SageGrouse21

See photo credit below.

This is a summary of the E&E article, “Sage grouse latest win for greens in sweeping listing pact.” To view the original, click here.

In a July 27, 2015 article, “Sage grouse latest win for greens in sweeping listing pact,” published by E&E Publishing, Phil Taylor writes, “The Bureau of Land Management has beefed up sage grouse protections on some 50 million acres of the West.”

Four years ago, the Obama administration signed settlements with WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity, laying the groundwork for the BLM’s recent actions protecting Sage Grouse.   WildEarth Guardians and the CBD credit the settlements reached for greatly improving conservation for the Sage Grouse across 11 states.

By the end of September, 2015, the USFWS will be required to make a decision about federal protections. If it is decided not to list the Sage Grouse on the Endangered Species Act, there is the threat of new restrictions coming into effect – on oil and gas development, as well as mining and grazing.

It is also still possible, however, that Congress may postpone the ESA listing of the Sage Grouse, perhaps for up to a decade.

In September 2011, a federal judge approved the settlements, which require the USFWS to decide on ESA listing for 250 candidate species over a period of six years. Before that, hundreds of species that urgently needed federal protection were on the ESA waiting list, some for more than ten years, with the USFWS stating that it did not have adequate resources to move any faster.

The settlements have greatly sped up the process and have so far resulted in decisions being made for 170 species, now listed as endangered or threatened, a big stride forwards.

Coming up soon, USFWS will also be required to make more politically tough decisions on lands being eyed by oil and gas companies, as well as solar and logging interests. This includes the Sage Grouse habitats.

John Horning, the Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians, commented that the ESA listing process had been broken. Now it is “getting back on track.”

It is considered likely that the USFWS will decline to list the Sage Grouse as endangered, finding that it is now on the road to recovery. However, BLM has already put in place wide-reaching protections for the Sage Grouse. 28 million acres will be off-limits to oil and gas drilling; 35 million acres off-limits to wind farms, and nine million acres off-limits to mining. The Department of Agriculture has made a positive contribution, helping landowners to restore over four million acres of Sage Grouse habitat – a land area twice as large as Yellowstone.

The battle certainly continues, but thanks to decisive action initiated by WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity, and implemented by the BLM, the Sage Grouse, and many other species, are now on much better footing than before.

Photo: Gary Kramer / Wikimedia Commons / “This image or recording is the work of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. For more information, see the Fish and Wildlife Service copyright policy.” / Sage Grouse.

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