The greater sage grouse is a species that lives across wide swathes of the Western landscape. If it was placed by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on the Endangered Species List, it would give federal bureaucrats much latitude in telling private property owners how to manage their land. However, the FWS issued a report earlier today that found:
Under the Act, we can determine that a species is an endangered or threatened species based on any of five factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Based on new information about these factors and the adequacy of regulatory mechanisms and conservation efforts in managing them, we have determined that the greater sage-grouse is not in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range and that listing the species is no longer warranted.
That's not just good news for the grouse, but also for property owners on whose lands the grouse dwell. Naturally, the FWS decision displeases those activists who want to shut down economic activity on the Western landscape. For example, the folks over at the Western Watersheds Project issued a press release decrying the action:
In a double-whammy that will doom the sagebrush steppe and the iconic Greater sage-grouse to a dismal future, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today the Obama Administration's decision to rely on incomplete planning efforts to protect the bird, rather than the true safety net of the Endangered Species Act. In addition to the finding of "Not Warranted" for federal protection under the ESA, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service released Records of Decision for land use plans across the west that fall short of what even the government's own scientists say is necessary to prevent the extinction of the species. …
[Travis Bruner, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project] added, "Secretary Jewell has been a failure at understanding the significance of intact and functional ecosystems and healthy biodiversity. She's an adept businessperson and she's figured out how to make extractive industries happy by doing as little as possible to 'conserve' what's left of the sagebrush habitat. History will remember her unwillingness to stand up for true conservation."
The FWS was taking into account such conservation activities as the creation of the gigantic private American Prairie Reserve that will provide lots of space for sage grouse and other wildlife to flourish. Formore backgrouns see my article, "Where the Private Buffalo Roam and the Private Antelope Play."
Addendum: Jimmy Tobias over at The Nation makes it crystal clear what the activist goal of listing the grouse is;
The federal government today announced that the greater sage grouse does not warrant listing as an endangered or threatened species. The decision is a victory for the oil industry and a menace to the bird, which has seen its numbers plummet over the last decades.
Today's decision rests on the hope that a series of novel federal and state conservation plans will be enough to stop the grouse decline and bolster its populations into the future. It's the dream verdict for the fossil fuel industry, as well as developers and ranchers, since it averts the strict regulations that come with any Endangered Species Act listing—regulations that would sharply limit industry access to large swaths of land in the West.