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, a ground-dwelling bird that inhabits much of the West, while guiding and managing new conventional and renewable energy projects to reduce impacts on the species.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found 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 greater sage-grouse 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.
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said:
The sage-grouse’s decline reflects the extent to which open land in the West has been developed in the last century. This development has provided important benefits, but we must find common-sense ways of protecting, restoring, and reconnecting the Western lands that are most important to the species’ survival while responsibly developing much-needed energy resources. Voluntary conservation agreements, federal financial and technical assistance and other partnership incentives can play a key role in this effort.
On March 5, 2010, the Northern Ag Network and Northern News Network participated in a news teleconference to discuss the status of the Greater Sage Grouse.
Click here to listen to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
Adding the species to the candidate list will allow the Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies an opportunity to continue to work cooperatively with private landowners to conserve the candidate species. This includes financial and technical assistance, and the ability to develop conservation agreements that provide regulatory assurances to landowners who take actions to benefit the species. One such agreement was signed last month in western Idaho, encompassing an area of over half a million acres.
Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey, whose agency manages more greater sage-grouse habitat than any other government agency, said that the BLM will today issue guidance that will expand the use of new science and mapping technologies to improve land-use planning and develop additional measures to conserve sage-grouse habitat while ensuring that energy production, recreational access and other uses of federal lands continue as appropriate. The BLM guidance also addresses a related species, the Gunnison sage-grouse, which has a more limited range, and which is in the process of being evaluated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether it also warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.
For more information about the Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding on the greater sage-grouse, click here.
For more information about the Bureau of Land Management’s efforts to conserve sage-grouse habitat, click here.
Source: Department of Interior-Posted by Russell Nemetz