SCI Applauds U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Decision Not to List Greater Sage Grouse
SCI is pleased with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s September 22 announcement that the greater sage grouse does not need federal protections across its 11-state western range and will not be proposed for listing as an endangered or threatened species.
In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) found that proposing a rule to list the species was warranted but precluded by higher priorities. Under a 2011 federal court-approved settlement, the FWS agreed to decide whether or not it needed to propose ESA listing status for the species by September 30, 2015. SCI tried to challenge this settlement in 2011, but the court refused to consider our objections.
Once abundant in at least 13 Western states and three Canadian provinces, the greater sage grouse has declined in number over the past century. Much of the blame comes from loss of habitat, ranching, and wild fires. Experts have determined that carefully regulated hunting is not a threat to the populations. Vulnerable to predators like eagles and coyotes, the greater sage grouse depends on vast expanses of sagebrush for food and shelter.
More than half of the land that makes up sage grouse habitat is owned by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. A listing decision threatened potentially dire implications for ranchers, landowners, developers and hunters. Government officials said the conservation response was strong, including from state governments, industry, and private landowners. For example, 1,100 ranchers who farm more than four million acres joined the effort during the past five years.
Environmental groups who sued to force the FWS decision are certain to challenge it, while industry groups and some Western governors have argued that measures now in place to benefit the bird’s population go too far in their restrictions on land use within its habitat.
Safari Club International will continue to monitor the situation and will keep you apprised of further developments.