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Eye On Boise

Otter says sage grouse comment was tongue-in-cheek, he doesn’t prefer an ESA listing

Gov. Butch Otter’s office said today that Otter didn’t mean comments he made about sage grouse in a speech earlier this week to be taken seriously, and he is not taking the position that it’d be better for the sage grouse to be listed as an endangered species. He's been critical of new federal rules that accompanied the decision not to list, and is challenging those rules in court. “It was tongue-in-cheek,” Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian, said today. “What he was expressing was his frustration, because in his view he feels the feds pulled a sleight of hand by imposing extremely restrictive management provisions in lieu of a listing, but in actual practice on the ground, (it) amounts to the same thing.”

Otter had been adamantly opposed to listing the sage grouse, and his administration has been working for years on plans to head off a listing. He spoke to the Idaho Rangeland Fire Protection Association on Tuesday; the Associated Press reported that Otter told the group he would have preferred the sage grouse receive federal endangered species protections rather than navigate new federal regulations designed to protect the bird's habitat. 

“It was a tongue-in-cheek comment expressing his frustration that the federal government is game-playing on this issue, essentially,” Hanian said. “What he means by that is that the decision not to list sage grouse came as a result of extremely restrictive BLM land use plans that really were adopted in the 11th hour of this process. The feds sought our input and the state put a lot of effort into putting it together, and then the Department of Interior pretty much ignored all of it as fast as we submitted it.”

Hanian said Otter has been making the point recently that, “Hey, it’s great you determined sage grouse should not be listed, which was obviously the right call, but by advancing a set of rules that when implemented on the ground are just as restrictive if not more so than an actual listing, it makes this whole process seem somewhat farcical.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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