Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sage Grouse Decision Presents New Frustrations In Idaho; Enviros say livestock grazing a significant threat

The Obama administration’s decision Tuesday not to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species rippled across the West. Many came out in favor of the decision, saying it represents a big victory for wildlife conservation. But in Idaho, the reaction to the news was far-ranging... and the issue likely isn’t over. Some conservation groups including the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club also applauded the news. Recreation groups and energy industry leaders did too. But as wide-reaching as the collaboration has been, not everyone is pleased. “We’re disappointed," Ken Cole says. "We think that the plans are not adequate for protecting sage grouse.” Cole is the Idaho director of the Western Watersheds Project. The environmental group sued the Fish and Wildlife Service, settling in 2010 which forced a decision this month. Cole thinks in the end, the decision not to list the bird was more about politics than science. For instance, he says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t take the threats from ranching seriously enough. Cattle grazing is identified only as a secondary threat to the sage grouse. “Industry doesn’t want them to be protected," Cole says. "They don’t want the consultations that the Fish and Wildlife Service would have to do for all of the projects. But that’s what’s needed.” Dustin Miller has been in charge of that effort in Governor Butch Otter’s office. Miller says during the early stages of the collaboration, Idaho and federal officials worked well together on finding the best ways to protect sage grouse, while not harming the state’s ranching and energy sectors. But earlier this year, that changed. The Interior Department approved a management plan that restricted cattle grazing more than a previous draft, and put more regulations on energy and mining development. Miller says that was frustrating because the state felt like it had been asked to focus on wildfire and invasive species instead. Yesterday, Miller wouldn’t deny that the state could end up suing over the restrictions...more

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