Friday, February 05, 2016

Utah sues federal government over sage grouse plan

Utah has decided to sue the federal government over its new set of rules intended to protect the greater sage grouse — following similar lawsuits lodged by Idaho and nine Nevada counties, ranchers and two mining companies. Utah state officials argue that the guidelines announced in September impose unnecessary restrictions for activities on and near sage grouse habitat. A state plan unveiled in 2013 is sufficient for the conservation of the hen-sized bird, the Utah Attorney General contends in the lawsuit filed Thursday. State officials and members of Utah's all-Republican congressional delegation called the lawsuit an important stance against federal overreach. "This one-size-fits-all decision does not reflect the tremendous diversity in greater sage-grouse habitats across the West," Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement. "Utah is better positioned to manage our sage-grouse population than the federal government." Herbert, a Republican, said in a statement that the new regulations are more restrictive in many ways than an Endangered Species Act designation. He said the state is better positioned to know how to manage sage grouse, as evidenced by the restoration of 500,000 acres of the bird's habitat and small increase in the animal's population. He is backed by the state's top politicians. Sen. Mike Lee said there's no need for the federal government to control public lands in Utah. Rep. Rob Bishop said the plan is an example of the Obama administration imposing its "misguided will on the West." Longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch also took the opportunity to blast the President: "The Obama administration has decided to fudge the facts and flout the law in pursuit of its radical anti-development agenda," Hatch said in a statement. "I applaud Gov. Herbert for his efforts to hold the administration accountable and protect our lands and jobs from this latest federal overreach."...more

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