Media Alert: Sage-grouse denied protection!

For immediate release
September 22, 2015
 
Contact:          Greta Anderson (520) 623-1878
                        Dr. Michael Connor (818) 345-0425
                        Travis Bruner (208) 720-5595

Greater Sage-grouse Denied Protection; Outlook for Iconic Bird is Bleak

Hailey, Idaho ­­– 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.  
 
It is well known that greater sage-grouse populations have experienced significant declines, the birds’ range has contracted, and the remaining populations are increasingly fragmented. The results of the recent (August 2015) Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies report on sage-grouse population trends “support previous findings that have documented a long-term (1965-2015) decline of greater sage-grouse range-wide.” 
 
“Clearly, with the continuing decline in sage-grouse numbers, this is not the time to back off protection,” said Dr. Michael Connor, California Director of Western Watersheds Project.
 
“The Secretary seemed determined to put a happy face on the future of the American West, and so she willfully ignored the hard decisions like limiting energy development, prohibiting transmission lines, and blocking spring cattle grazing,” said Travis Bruner, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “There is no ‘win’ here for sage-grouse. There is only a slighty slower trajectory towards extinction. If this is, as Jewell claims, ‘the future of conservation in America,' than the sage-grouse isn’t the only species that's in trouble.”
 
The “Not Warranted” determination is based in large part on the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Resource Management Plans and Amendments that cover roughly half of the remaining sage-grouse habitat. But, unless they have changed significantly from the final proposals, none of these plans draw firm management parameters around livestock grazing, the most ubiquitous threat to the species across its range. All the plans defer changes to grazing to future decision-making, despite having clear scientific recommendations and court orders describing what must be done to protect the bird during critical stages of its life cycle.
 
“It’s obvious from Interior’s propaganda that they have not accurately identified the threat that livestock pose,” said Greta Anderson, Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Simply throwing money at the problem through the Sage Grouse Initiative is like putting an expensive bandage on a gaping chest wound. The failure here was to staunch the flow and limit livestock’s destructive impacts by significantly altering grazing management.”
 
Bruner 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.”

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