No Endangered Status for Greater Sage-Grouse
The government isn't listing the greater sage-grouse as an endangered species, but it is a candidate, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today. “My hope is that at the end of day, through smart actions we take in partnership with state and private landowners, that we will never have to list the sage-grouse as an endangered species,” Salazar told reporters.
The official ruling is “warranted but precluded," meaning that the bird does merit protection: sage-grouse population declined by 90 percent from a century ago, and the bird has lost half its habitat. But the feds decided not to list it because of recent conservation strides. Through efforts of states, including Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, sage grouse populations have remained relatively stable over last decade, Salazar explained. The bird will be added to the roster of “candidate species” for future inclusion on the list. Its status will be reviewed yearly
Not listing the species means that energy projects and other activities can continue in the bird’s habitat. However, Salazar advised taking a “smarter” approach to development on the front end. The BLM today will issue guidance expanding the use of new science and mapping technologies to identify and conserve core sage-grouse habitat, and also ensure energy production, recreational access, and ranching can continue.
"The Interior Department is on the right path with its new science-based plans," said Audubon President Frank Gill.
Some groups weren't pleased with the decision.
“FWS got the science right but passed on the opportunity to fully protect this bird today,” said American Bird Conservancy (ABC) President George Fenwick. “We are hopeful that FWS will now use this decision to bring all parties and agencies together to create effective management decisions that will balance development needs while halting sage-grouse population declines.”
From the FWS news release:
Adding the species to the candidate list will allow the Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies an opportunity to continue to work cooperatively with private landowners to conserve the candidate species. This includes financial and technical assistance, and the ability to develop conservation agreements that provide regulatory assurances to landowners who take actions to benefit the species. One such agreement was signed last month in western Idaho, encompassing an area of over half a million acres.
For more on sage-grouse and drilling, read our story "Sagebrush Showdown".