Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lawyers Make Millions Off Taxpayers, Endangered Species Act as Ranchers Try to Live With Rare Bird

by Kevin Mooney 

Feathers are flying over whether the federal government is overprotecting a rare bird in Colorado, in what critics grouse is an example of lawyers making millions while abusing the Endangered Species Act.

Trial lawyers who collect taxpayer-funded fees under the law file so many suits that they undermine local conservation efforts in Western states, according to government officials, industry advocates, and legal analysts familiar with the situation.

In Colorado, the situation prompted Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, to sue the Obama administration early last year.

Over 25 years, Colorado officials spent more than $40 million to preserve the habitat of a paunchy, ground-dwelling, chickenlike bird known as the Gunnison sage grouse.

Colorado officials worked in partnership with ranchers in Gunnison County, who voluntarily entered into conservation easements on their property that protected the bird while allowing for robust ranching activities.
In the past few years, the Gunnison sage grouse population not only has stabilized but increased in the part of southwestern Colorado where they’re concentrated, local government figures show.

Even so, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service saw fit to list the species as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in November 2014.


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