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Eye On Boise

Feds: ESA protection ‘not warranted’ for sage grouse, given collaborative conservation plans

A formal announcement is scheduled later this morning in Colorado, but the U.S. Interior Department has decided federal protections for the greater sage grouse are “not warranted” at this time, following costly efforts to reverse the species’ decline without reshaping the region’s economy. In a video posted on the department's website, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell cited extensive, collaborative conservation efforts. "Because of an unprecedented effort by dozens of partners across 11 western states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the greater sage-grouse does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act," she said. “The deteriorating health of the bird has sparked the largest land conservation effort in U.S. history. ... This has been an extraordinary effort on a scale we’ve never seen before.”

Jewell will join an array of officials, including the governors of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada, for the announcement this morning at 10 a.m. in Commerce City, Colo. You can read a full AP story here from Billings, Mont. on the decision.

Meanwhile, the American Bird Conservancy issued a statement this morning supporting the decision. “We are concerned about continued habitat loss from oil and gas drilling and new power line construction,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for the group. “We want to see regular reviews of the species’ population trend to learn if the current long-term decline is reversed. The plans must be shown to be working, and the extraordinary conservation efforts on private lands continued. If not, the listing issue may have to be revisited in the future.”

The bird conservation group pointed to federal management plans unveiled today aimed at restoring and conserving the bird’s habitat across 50 million acres of public lands. “These Bureau of Land Management and USDA Forest Service conservation plans represent a huge collaborative effort involving multiple stakeholders. These complex plans need to be given a chance to work. Based on this, we believe that additional legislation and regulation concerning the grouse is not needed at this time and support the Department of Interior's decision that Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection is currently ‘not warranted.’”

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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