Calling the greater sage grouse “the pulse” of the West’s sage ecosystem, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel announced this morning 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.
“I commend the Department of the Interior and the 11 western states with sage grouse habitat for their unparalleled collaboration,” said Nevada Sen. Harry Reid. “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 the secretary of the Interior.
“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.”
Sportsmen’s groups 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,” said 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, today’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,” said 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 Nevada Cattlemen’s Association said Jewell did the right thing.
“The NCA feels this was the correct designation for the benefit of the Greater Sage Grouse, rural communities and the environment,” the NCA said in a statement. “The designation will hopefully result in the continued trend of positive habitat restoration on more than 17 million acres of habitat in Nevada.”
Sandoval said he is pleased with the announcement.
“The decision not to list will allow Nevada to maintain control of the management of the sage-grouse, meaning Nevada will continue to monitor individual populations and set priorities that work for Nevada,” the governor said. “In my view, resource management at the state level is better than exclusive federal control — and that is a central difference between listing the sage grouse and not listing it.
“I am cautiously optimistic that this is good news for Nevada and I am pleased that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has come to this decision, but there is more work to be done. I am asking all local, state and federal leaders including the Sagebrush Ecosystem Council to stay at the table to resolve some key issues and continue their strong advocacy for implementation of Nevada’s plan. We will closely monitor the implementation of this decision so that every option remains available to our state.
The decision mirrors one made years ago, but challenged in federal court for not being thorough enough.
For one concerned Fallon resident and president of the Fallon Tea Party, Bob Clifford is, however, wary of the decision. He has monitored the sage-grouse situation.
“Don’t be fooled by today’s decision not to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. The department of the interior has decided to avoid triggering a massive revolt across the west, and is instead busy incorporating sweeping habitat restrictions into local land use plans like the Carson District Resource Management Plan,” he said. “These RMPs (Resource Management Plans) are right now being revised to incorporate restrictions which have the same effect as a listing. Also, don’t be fooled by the apparent show of cooperation as Nevada’s own sage-grouse conservation plans and efforts were completely ignored in the recently issued 3,500-page Sage-Grouse LUPA/FEIS, this to the frustration of Gov. Sandoval who sent a 12-page response letter. The fight is far from over.”
LVN Editor Steve Ranson contributed to this article.