Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced last Friday that the Department of the Interior will expand efforts with state, local and tribal partners to map lands that are vital to the survival of the greater sage grouse, and managing new conventional and renewable energy projects to reduce impacts on the species.
Salazar's announcement is in conjunction with a finding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that, based on accumulated scientific data and new peer-reviewed information and analysis, the greater sage grouse warrants the protection of the Endangered Species Act, but that listing the species at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species first. The bird will be placed on the candidate list for future action, meaning the species would not receive statutory protection under the ESA, and states would continue to be responsible for managing the bird.
The issue will be at the forefront of the Governor's Sage Grouse Implementation Team meeting in Cheyenne tomorrow. The team was appointed by Governor Freudenthal with the goal of keeping sage grouse off the Endangered Species List. Casper hunter Mike Guy, who has worked for uranium drilling outfits, shares his perspective on the plight of the species, which begins with his first encounter with the bird 30 years ago.
Clait Braun is a retired Colorado Division of Wildlife sage grouse researcher. He doesn't think time is on the side of the bird, because of its quick decline in numbers. However, he finds good news in that science has shown how preservation of sagebrush landscapes is the key.
And Brian Rutledge with Audubon Wyoming is on the Sage Grouse Implementation Team. He promises they understand that the marching orders are in.
A sage grouse endangered species listing would carry a heavy impact on oil and gas drilling and wind energy production in Wyoming. Critics of the agency's decision say with close to 200,000 of the birds left, they're not yet truly endangered.