by Scott Sonner, Associated Press
Attempts by rural Nevada counties, mining companies and others to block new U.S. policies intended to protect the greater sage grouse could backfire on the critics and ultimately force the reconsideration of a recent decision to keep the bird off the list of endangered species, federal land managers warn.
Justice Department lawyers representing three U.S. agencies say it took an unprecedented effort by officials in 11 western states from California to the Dakotas to persuade the Fish and Wildlife Service last month to reverse its 2010 conclusion that protection of the grouse was warranted under the Endangered Species Act.
The new finding was based on assumptions that added protections in the land-planning amendments being challenged will be carried out to ensure the grouse no longer is threatened with extinction, they said in a brief filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Reno.
Any injunction blocking implementation would “diminish the protections for sage grouse … undo four years of collaboration and could undermine FWS' finding,” U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden wrote.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du has set a hearing for Nov. 12 in Reno to consider granting a preliminary injunction blocking the amendments.
Elko and Eureka counties and others filed the lawsuit on Sept. 23 — the day after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the listing decision. The Wyoming Stock Growers Association also is suing in federal court there, and Idaho's governor has signed onto a separate lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.
The Nevada lawsuit says the plans could run mining companies and ranchers out of business, block construction of a wind energy project that could bring Elko County $500 million and deny firefighters and law officers access to existing roads during emergencies.
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Source: Associated Press