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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Pacific NW

Sage grouse decision lifts wind farm planners

Associated Press

ALBION, Idaho — The announcement that the sage grouse does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act has a Boise-based company hopeful that they can move forward with a proposed wind farm.

But the Bureau of Land Management says the decision will neither help nor hurt Windland Inc.

Windland, which is proposing a 130-turbine wind farm on the Cotterell Mountains near Albion, said the announcement puts finality to one question which held up the project.

“It certainly removes one of the open questions,” said Mike Heckler, Windland’s marketing manager. “It gives some finality to that one aspect of the environmental impact statement and makes more clear what we’ll be facing as far as the sage grouse issue is concerned.”

But the decision will have little impact on the project’s progression, said Wendy Reynolds, of the BLM’s Burley field office.

Lifting the sage grouse from the endangered species list eases restrictions on 150 million acres of sagebrush habitat in 11 Western states, including Idaho. The grouse depends on sagebrush. In the past century as much as 50 percent of sagebrush land has been replaced by farms and urban sprawl or taken over by alien cheat grass because of frequent fires. Much of the remaining sagebrush habitat is patchy, making it difficult for sage grouse to migrate from summer to winter habitat.

Despite the decline, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the threat of extinction is low. Since 1986, populations in several states, including Idaho, have increased or stabilized.

The Western Governor’s Association pledged Friday to build a comprehensive plan for sage grouse recovery.

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