Sage Grouse

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter spoke forcefully about observing the “rule of law” in his first comments on the armed protesters in adjacent eastern Oregon.

Ann Kennedy / USDA

Federal officials from Washington D.C. and state leaders from around the Northwest have traveled to Boise, Idaho for a unique kind of meeting this week. Scientists and policymakers will try to get to the root of (quite literally) one of the greatest challenges the West faces.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Just three days after federal officials decided not to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's office and the Idaho Legislature has announced the state filed a lawsuit. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Obama administration’s decision Tuesday not to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species rippled across the West. Many came out in favor of the decision, saying it represents a big victory for wildlife conservation. But in Idaho, the reaction to the news was far-ranging... and the issue likely isn’t over.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Sage Grouse Not Listed Under Endangered Species Act

Sep 22, 2015
Jeannie Stafford, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / / Flickr Creative Commons

The Interior Department’s announcement that there will be no federal protection for the greater sage grouse caps years of controversy and uncertainty over one of the West’s most difficult environmental problems.

Alarm bells echoed across the West in 2010 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warned that the greater sage grouse could be put on the Endangered Species List. The end of this month is the deadline for a final decision. In the interim, there has been an enormous amount of work done to protect the bird – enough to suggest a threat is sometimes big enough to get the job done.

Could this have been the intent all along? To make the threat big enough so that an actual listing might be avoided?

The federal government will decide whether or not to list the greater sage grouse on the Endangered Species List later this month. Another sage grouse species, the Gunnison sage grouse, has been on that list since last November. The government followed a distinct and separate process for the Gunnison grouse, classifying it as “threatened”.

About 170 greater sage grouse gather on Wes McStay’s ranch in northwestern Colorado.  They're here to mate in an open field of recently-planted rye.

Biologists call such a gathering a lek, where male grouse perform an elaborate mating dance that involves inflating two yellow air sacs in their chests and then releasing the air with a bubbling pop. 

In May, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stepped up to the podium at a press conference in Boise. The smell of damp sagebrush was in the air, and the foothills in the background were green – a rare sight in the high desert. Jewell then cut to the chase:

“Fire is the number one threat to this ecosystem in the Great Basin states,” said the Obama administration cabinet member.

Pages