The greater sage grouse is a bird that’s been at the center of a major conservation fight the past year. Today, it was announced that it will not be protected under the Endangered Species Act by the Department of Interior.
Is this a good thing? In a video announcement, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell called the decision a “milestone for conservation in America” and a point of pride for the department.
She said that the decision not to list the bird — a designation that would have meant that the greater sage grouse was “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range,” and would have subjected it to certain federal protections — came because of an “unprecedented” conservation effort in 11 western states over the last few years.
Once seen in great numbers across the West, greater sage-grouse have declined in number over the past century because of the loss of sagebrush habitats essential for their survival and had been candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
This "unprecedented effort" by dozens of partners across 11 western states included state leaders, ranchers, conservation groups, and other stakeholders. Each for their own reasons, they have made enough progress that the bird’s future looks bright enough to leave it off the endangered species list.
Perhaps, the hopeful message here is that it may offer lessons for conserving other threatened species,
Not everyone is happy with the decision. Some groups will still point to the decision being made in order to allow energy development on public lands.
Brian Rutledge, Central Flyway conservation strategy and policy adviser for the Audubon Society’s Rockies office, said that as long as the federal government sticks to its plan to preserve sage grouse habitat on public lands — a plan that includes limits on oil, gas, solar, and wind development inside the sage grouse’s habitat — he doesn’t think additional drilling will be a major threat to the bird.
There are many articles now online about the decision - a few listed below.
What is your reaction to the decision? Is it a good sign for the future?