Task force offers sage grouse plan

BOISE – A 16-member task force appointed by Gov. Butch Otter to figure out a way to dissuade the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing sage grouse as an endangered species has submitted its recommendations to the governor.

The Sage Grouse Task Force on Friday recommended limiting transmission lines and wind and solar energy plants and creating new measures for ranchers. The task force also recommends splitting Idaho’s sage grouse habitat into three zones.

If Otter approves the document, it will be sent for consideration as part of the National Greater Sage Grouse Land Use Planning Strategy being developed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

A recent legal settlement gives the agency until 2015 to decide the bird’s status: threatened, endangered or not in need of federal protection.

Ken Cole of Western Watersheds attended some of the task force meetings and said he doubts the task force’s recommendations will pass scientific scrutiny and potential legal challenges.

“If the BLM doesn’t honestly address the impacts of grazing on sage grouse, I’m sure we’re going to go back to court, and I’m sure we’ll win,” he said.

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