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Eye On Boise

Feds say sage grouse lawsuits could backfire, land bird on endangered list

Lawsuits challenging new U.S. policies intended to protect the greater sage grouse could backfire and force reconsideration of the recent decision not to list the bird as endangered, federal land managers are warning. The AP reports that legal filings in a Nevada lawsuit by Justice Department lawyers representing three U.S. agencies say it took an unprecedented effort by officials in 11 western states from California to the Dakotas to persuade the Fish and Wildlife Service last month to reverse its 2010 conclusion that protection of the grouse was warranted under the Endangered Species Act.

That finding was based on assumptions that added protections in the land-planning amendments being challenged will be carried out to ensure the grouse no longer is threatened with extinction, they said in a brief filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Reno. Any injunction blocking implementation would "diminish the protections for sage grouse ... undo four years of collaboration and could undermine FWS' finding," U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden wrote.

A hearing is set for Nov. 12 in federal court in Reno to consider granting a preliminary injunction blocking the amendments. The Nevada lawsuit was filed by rural counties, mining companies and others, the day after the listing decision; the Wyoming Stock Growers Association also is suing in federal court there, and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and the state Legislature signed onto a separate lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. You can read a full report here from AP reporter Scott Sonner in Reno.

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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