Monday, October 19, 2015

How the west saved the sage grouse


A small, chicken-like bird sparked some of the greatest conservation collaboration Montana has ever seen.
The controversy over the greater sage grouse, whose population declined steadily for the past 50 years, came to a conclusion on Sept. 22, when federal officials announced the bird would not be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they decided against listing the sage grouse as an endangered species since regional conservation efforts are promising.

In an attempt to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list, conservation groups, private landowners, government agencies and corporations worked together, despite their differing interests.

Together they created Montana’s sage grouse conservation plan, enacted through two executive orders from the governor and over $11 million in funding from the state legislature. The goal was to convince FWS that the listing was unnecessary.

...“They’re skittish, and they hide,” Janet Ellis, Senior Director for the Audubon Society, said. “What these birds need is solid sagebrush as far as the eye can see.”
...Ellis said the state can manage the sage grouse better than the federal government.

“If you don’t get cooperation from landowners, you’re not gonna protect sage grouse, and I think the state has a lot better chance at working with all the partners than if it got a federal listing,” Ellis said.

...If the sage grouse were to receive an endangered species listing, the federal government would take over conservation efforts, and institute special protections. Ellis said federal agencies lack both the staff and funding for an effective conservation effort. Instead, she said a state run program will be more effective in bringing people together across the large swath of sage grouse territory in Montana.
“I think it’s the best outcome now,” Ellis said. “I won’t guarantee it will stay that way.”

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