No listing needed …
Making a decision for which the political handwriting was on the wall a long time ago, the U.S. Department of Interior this week said that greater sage-grouse are doing just fine, and don’t need protection of the Endangered Species Act.
The non-listing may very well be challenged in court by some conservation groups who question whether a patchwork of voluntary conservation measures will be enough to save one of the West’s landmark species, but federal officials — tired of fighting with governors in western states like Colorado and Nevada, said the birds “remain relatively abundant and well-distributed: across their 173-million acre range.
“After a thorough analysis of the best available scientific information and taking into account ongoing key conservation efforts and their projected benefits, the FWS has determined the bird does not face the risk of extinction now or in the foreseeable future and therefore does not need protection under the ESA,” the Department of Interior said in a press release.
That all may come as a surprise to some conservation biologists who have been documenting the steady and sharp decline of greater sage-grouse for decades, but Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said recent advances in state-based and regional plans will stem those losses in the years ahead.
“This is truly a historic effort – one that represents extraordinary collaboration across the American West,” said Jewell. “The epic conservation effort will benefit westerners and hundreds of species that call this iconic landscape home, while giving states, businesses and communities the certainty they need to plan for sustainable economic development.”
Along with the conservation efforts already in place, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have finalized a set of land use plans covering greater sage-grouse habitat. Those plans include additional conservation measures for greater sage-grouse, including a proposal to withdraw a subset of lands that are sage-grouse strongholds from future mining claims. More information on the plans is available here. More information on the proposed mineral withdrawal is available here.
According to the federal press release, the future of sage-grouse depends on the successful implementation of the federal and state management plans and the actions of private landowners, as well as a continuing focus on reducing invasive grasses and controlling rangeland fire. The FWS has committed to monitoring all of the continuing efforts and population trends, as well as to reevaluating the status of the species in five years.