The state of Utah has released the final version of its plan for protecting the greater sage grouse. The plan designates 11 Sage Grouse Management Areas stretching from Rich County to Kane County and outlines goals for improving existing habitat and protecting the birds from threats such as energy development, predators and wildfire.
The main goal of the plan has been to avoid having the grouse listed as an endangered species. Kathleen Clarke, the governor’s advisor on public lands, says it’s good enough.
“I do believe that there will be adequate conservation demonstrated by the state to be able to support a ‘not warranted’ listing,” Clarke told KUER in an interview.
Critics of the plan, like the Wild Utah Project’s Allison Jones, aren’t so sure. She says the Sage Grouse Management Area boundaries have been drawn to sacrifice some birds living in the Uintah Basin.
“They’ve removed 10 percent of Utah’s sage grouse population as being important to the overall statewide goal,” Jones says.
The final version of the plan also allows some disturbance of the nesting areas called leks, which was ruled out in previous versions.
The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service will have to sign off on the plan before it’s implemented. Larry Crist, the agency’s Utah Field Office Supervisor, says they’ll be studying it over the next couple of weeks.