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Conservation Groups Call for Unity In Sage Grouse Recovery Effort

PHOTO: Several conservation groups are calling on an oil and gas group to work together on voluntary conservation efforts that can help the greater sage grouse from being listed as a threatened species. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
PHOTO: Several conservation groups are calling on an oil and gas group to work together on voluntary conservation efforts that can help the greater sage grouse from being listed as a threatened species. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
August 21, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY - Several conservation groups are calling for unity in efforts to help the greater sage grouse recover from near-extinction in Utah and throughout the west, which could also keep the bird from being listed as a threatened species.

Bill Midcap is the director of external affairs at the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, one of several organizations which sent a letter to the oil and gas trade group Western Energy Alliance. The letter says citizens on both sides of the issue can work together to help save the grouse.

"As Westerners, we know how to compromise and we know how to hammer out innovative solutions to tough problems," says Midcap. "I think that to come to some kind of solution with everybody, whether farm, ranch, oil and gas, is the best step forward."

The greater sage grouse faces threats from invasive noxious weeds, grazing and loss of habitat to energy development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to list the bird as a threatened species.

Midcap says the letter also takes issue with the Western Energy Alliance claim that "environmental lawyers" are trying to shut down the economy of the west. He says the Alliance should join the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, National Wildlife Federation and other organizations working on federal- and state-level plans that strike a balance between needed energy development and lasting conservation of the greater sage grouse.

"The listing of this bird would negatively impact farms and ranches," says Midcap. "Delaying decisions to find solutions for the grouse makes it more likely that the bird will be listed."

The letter sent to the Western Energy Alliance points out some of its member companies are part of a voluntary conservation agreement for the sage grouse in Wyoming.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT