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Draft report outlines greater sage-grouse conservation goals

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

States, BLM trying to stave off an endangered species listing

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new draft report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may help provide a road map for greater sage-grouse conservation by identifying high-risk populations of the birds, outlining specific measures needed to avoid or mitigate impacts and setting population conservation goals.

The draft report is part of a multi-state planning aimed at protecting sage grouse and enabling economic growth, including oil and gas development, across the interior West.

The USFWS is working toward a court-ordered deadline for making a decision whether list greater sage-grouse as threatened or endangered. As part of that process, the Bureau of Land Management is updating land management plans across huge swaths of the West. At the same time, western states are also involved in trying to develop sage grouse conservation plans, hoping to forestall an endangered species listing. Continue reading

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Opinion: More action, less talk, on sage grouse conservation

Greater sage-grouse. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

Look out when politicians get involved in endangered species conservation

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — If I were a sage grouse, I’d be heading for the hills right about now, because there’s nothing scarier than a “task force” of politicians sitting around discussing your fate.

The task force will be co-chaired by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, neither one of whom ever saw a gas-drilling proposal they didn’t like.

They will, according to a press release from Hickenlooper’s office, look for ways “to collaboratively identify actions that could preclude the need to list the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act.”

It would be nice to believe that executive level participation might lead to meaningful conservation measures, but a more cynical interpretation of that political jargon might be, “How can we avoid taking any real, meaningful measures to protect a fast-disappearing species that once ranged widely across the sagebrush ocean of the interior West while making sure that energy company and real estate developers have their way with the land?” Continue reading

Northern Rockies wolves facing aerial slaughter

Listed as endangered just a few months ago, wolves will be hunted and killed in the northern Rockies after House Republicans made a political end run to avoid complying with the Endangered Species Act.

Congress evades Endangered Species Act; Federal judge calls Wyoming wolf deal an act of political appeasement and says it undermines the rule of law

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Predator conservation in the West took a step backward this week, as the Obama administration and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead finalized an agreement that could permit the aerial slaughter of hundreds of wolves.

The deal was spurred by an act of Congress last April, when western Republicans attached a rider to a budget bill that removed Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the northern Rockies.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the revisions to the state’s management plan for the gray wolf will promote the management of a stable, sustainable population of wolves and pave the way for the Service to return wolf management to Wyoming. All federal documents relating to the Northern Rockies wolf recovery program are online here.

Conservation groups challenged the the constitutionality of the measure in federal court, but on Aug. 3 U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy reluctantly rejected the lawsuit, effectively finalizing the Republican end run around the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

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