sage grouse

Phil Douglass / Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

 Congress is facing a midnight deadline to pass a huge spending bill.  One of its provisions would put a possible endangered species listing for the sage grouse on hold. 

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is facing a deadline based on a court settlement with environmental groups.  It has until September next year to make a decision on whether to put the greater sage grouse on the list of endangered or threatened species.

  The Utah Legislature appropriated two million dollars to try to avoid an endangered species listing for the greater sage grouse.  The consulting firm hired to do that presented its report to the legislature today on its work so far.

  Tuesday's Morgan County Council meeting has been getting national attention because of a land-use planning question that could impact the sage grouse.  But the council may put off a vote on the issue to allow for further study.

At the last meeting two weeks ago, the Morgan County council split 3 to 3 on the question of whether to change the land use designation on a 27-hundred acre parcel near East Canyon Reservoir.  The area includes a sage grouse lek, where the birds mate and nest in the spring.

Dan Bammes

UPDATE:  The council vote Tuesday evening was 3 to 3, which means the change for the 27-hundred acre parcel did NOT pass.  The property owners plan to try again to win approval for the change at the next council meeting in two weeks.  They’re hoping all seven members of the council will be present for that meeting and that will break the tie. 

The Morgan County Council will look at a change in its master land use plan on Tuesday that could impact the future of the sage grouse in Utah.

Phil Douglass/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Landowners won a decision from the Morgan County Planning Commission Thursday night. Conservation groups had asked them to protect a nesting area for the greater sage grouse. But it appears a compromise is already in the works.

The group of about 50 landowners wants to develop a new resort community near East Canyon Reservoir. They were asking the Morgan County Planning Commission to change the designation of their property on the county’s master land use plan from “Natural Resources and Recreation” to “Master Planned Community.”

Dan Bammes

  Conservationists say a change in Morgan County’s master land use plan could have a big impact on the future of the greater sage grouse in Utah.  A potential resort development is the subject of a hearing planned for Thursday evening.

Gail L. Patricelli

Utah leaders are pressing forward with their aggressive campaign to keep the Greater Sage Grouse off the endangered species list.

Republican Utah Congressman Rob Bishop is co-sponsoring a new bill to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from adding the sage grouse to the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Species.

U.S. Forest Service

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.”

Dan Bammes

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.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

  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.

Allison Jones
Wild Utah Project

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  

sage grouse
Dan Bammes

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.