Biologists, environmentalists and government agencies are meeting this week to work on plans to protect the sage grouse. They all agree on one goal – preventing the bird from being listed as an endangered species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must make a decision on an endangered species listing by the end of September next year. That decision could depend on whether it judges an environmental impact statement from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to be adequate.
The plan will likely include new restrictions on grazing and oil drilling to protect the sagebrush habitat the birds depend on. Utah BLM Director Juan Palma says it won’t be finalized without hearing from affected groups.
“We’re going to engage a lot of people," Palma told the group gathered at Utah's Department of Natural Resources. "But let me tell you that there’s no naiveness about me that somehow, we’re all going to agree 100-percent. But, at a minimum, we’re going to understand and we’re going to hear each other out.”
Allison Jones with the Wild Utah Project is skeptical about the final result. She says a look at the legislature’s budget shows Utah is already preparing to fight it.
“The state is trying to insert 500-thousand dollars to hire a contractor to basically try to affect this listing through political means.”
Governor Gary Herbert opened the summit this morning, saying an endangered species listing for the sage grouse could have a huge economic cost for Utah.