Leaders in Utah and other Western states want to delay the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision on whether the Greater Sage Grouse deserves federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Conservation advocates say the iconic bird needs those federal protections.
Utah is proceeding with its controversial strategy to protect the greater sage grouse, as state officials solicit bids from lobbyists to keep the bird off the endangered species list.
Jeff Hartley, an energy industry lobbyist, says the state needs more time to show sage grouse numbers are growing because of its approach.
“People need to know the states are making this effort and doing good work,” he said. “A listing would be bad for the state of Utah. And so to educate Congress, and thereby prevent a listing, is in the state’s interest.”
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 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.
An advisory panel appointed by Governor Gary Herbert is getting ready to recommend a plan for protecting the sage grouse in Utah. Utah and several other states are hoping to avoid having the grouse listed as an endangered species. Biologist Allison Jones with the Wild Utah Project has attended all the group's meetings. She tells KUER's Dan Bammes the plan won't protect every place in the state where the birds are found. Wild Utah Project website
Utah and several other western states are working on plans to protect the sage grouse, with the goal of keeping the birds off the federal endangered species list. Those plans have to be acceptable to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and it's just issued a draft report that could give the states some guidance. Noreen Walsh, the deputy administrator for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Mountain Prairie Region, says it addresses the different circumstances such as energy development, predators and urban growth that threaten the sage grouse population across its 11-state range.