Letters From the West

Environmental group disses both federal and Idaho sage grouse plans

Mating ritual: A male sage grouse puffs his chest and struts in a lek. the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide by 2015 whether to list the desert bird as a threatened species Provided by USGS/Matt T. Lee

A male sage grouse puffs his chest and struts in a lek. Provided by USGS/Matt T. Lee

Neither the Bureau of Land Management nor the Idaho sage grouse plans get please WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups whose lawsuits have forced a new Endangered Species Act review by 2015.

“Overall, this plan lacks the kind of specific and adequate conservation measures required to maintain sage grouse in Idaho and southwest Montana,” said Erik Molvar, Wildlife Biologist with WildEarth Guardians.

They will be one of the groups that will be telling U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill to reject a decision not to list if they are not satisfied enough isn’t being done to protect the bird.

Like Western Watersheds Project they argue that mismanagement of livestock grazing in sage grouse habitat is the greatest threat to sage grouse populations in Idaho and Montana.

“Stronger and more specific measures are needed to ensure that overgrazed rangelands are returned to health, and specifically to ensure that streamside habitats, critically important to sage grouse when they are raising their chicks, are not damaged by overuse from livestock,” said Molvar.

They want more limitations on energy development in Montana but like this part of the federal plan in Idaho.

“One of the few bright spots of the proposed plan is the closure of most of Idaho to future oil and gas leasing because almost the whole state is rated as having low potential for oil and gas,” added Adam Rissien, Northern Rockies conservation manager for WildEarth Guardians.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West