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One-Year Anniversary for Sage Grouse Conservation

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Thursday, September 22, 2016   

SALT LAKE CITY – Today marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's landmark decision not to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. The bird, known for its colorful mating dance, once numbered as many as 16 million, but has dropped to between 200,000 and 500,000.

Clare Bastable, senior public lands program director for the National Wildlife Federation, said after years of conservation efforts and cooperation between private landowners, extraction companies and government agencies, new land-management plans covering 67 million acres across 10 states struck the right balance.

"While also allowing for appropriate development," she said. "So, it's a great effort to protect the greater sage grouse while still recognizing that there are multiple uses of the habitat that sage grouse depends on."

Some oil and gas companies have opposed the plans' limits on development, and are turning to states to push for broader access to national public lands. The State Forest Management Act, which cleared committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, would allow the transfer of up to two million acres of National Forest lands to states.

Also in the U.S. House, a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act could throw another wrench into the multi-use plans. But Bastable cited a recent Vet Voice Foundation survey that found 63 percent of Western voters support the plans to protect sage-grouse habitat, and 69 percent oppose using the Defense Act to block their implementation.

"Westerners want to see these plans get put into place," she added. "To see this collaborative effort, between states, and the federal government and landowners, get us to the place that we need to be with regards to sage-grouse populations."

She added what's good for the bird is also good for the herd, as the sagebrush steppe is home to 350 other species, including elk, deer, and trout.


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