Feds: Greater sage grouse not endangered, an ‘extraordinary effort’
MINDEN, Nev. — Calling the greater sage grouse “the pulse” of the West’s sage ecosystem, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel announced Tuesday that the bird does not require federal protection.
She said a partnership involving ranchers, firefighters conservationists, recreationists and federal officials helped to preserve the bird, calling it the largest conservation effort in American history.
“This has been an extraordinary effort at a scope we’ve never seen before,” she said.
The decision by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service follows a similar call made about the bi-state sage grouse in spring.
In that instance, scientists found populations of sage grouse were rebounding in most places.
Sen. Harry Reid commended the Department of Interior and the 11 Western states for their cooperation.
“Nevada has the second highest population of sage grouse and some of the best habitat in the country and I want to applaud Gov. Brian Sandoval and his staff for the phenomenal work done in partnership with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell,” Reid said in a statement. “The decision not to list this unique bird was made because of the proactive conservation of sagebrush habitat agreed upon by the states and federal agencies. This process has not been easy and we have a long way to go. But all those involved in this historic process should be proud of the outcome.
Sportsmen’s groups said they are encouraged by the decision and appreciative of the 11 states, federal agencies, private landowners, and other vested stakeholders that have come together in a daunting, often controversial effort.
“The work to benefit sage grouse over the last five years has been the greatest landscape-scale conservation effort undertaken in modern times,” says Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The collaboration we’ve seen is unprecedented and extraordinary. It sets forth a model for what I believe to be the future of conservation in America.”
For many of the groups involved in this effort, this week’s announcement comes with a cautious sense of relief.
“For years, sportsmen, ranchers, developers, and biologists have anxiously awaited the day when the sage grouse listing decision would be made,” says Steve Riley, president and CEO of the North American Grouse Partnership. “Now, it is imperative that these collective conservation efforts are implemented and monitored for effectiveness in the long-term if we are to avoid winding up with sage grouse again at risk further down the road.”
The decision mirrors one made years ago, but challenged in federal court for not being thorough enough.
The Western Energy Alliance applauded the decision, but criticized the means the federal government used to get there.
“This conservation not only protects the sage grouse, it also protects our rangelands, our mule deer and pronghorn antelope habitat and our western way of life,” Reid said. “I look forward to continued cooperation between the federal agencies, states and local governments on implementing the sage grouse management plans and making sure that the sage grouse can thrive alongside our western economies.”