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Idaho Statesman, June 29, 2015

Western Watersheds protests BLM grouse plans
ByRocky Barker

Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project and other conservation groups filed administrative protests today against 14 federal sage grouse plans, spanning 10 western states saying they dont adequately protect the birds.

WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity joined Western Watersheds in the protests saying the federal plans disregard the scientific consensus on what is necessary to save and restore sage grouse and instead allow excessive industrial development, including for oil and gas, and commercial use in remaining sage grouse strongholds.

The sage grouse, which may only number in the hundreds of thousands, rely heavily on millions of acres of public land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Earlier this month Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said he would file a protest as well.

Under a settlement resolving the backlog of imperiled species awaiting federal decisions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has until Sept. 30 to recommend whether Endangered Species Act protection is warranted for sage grouse.

The plans are a unique opportunity for federal agencies to rein in the serious threats driving the precipitous decline of sage grouse including oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing, and habitat fragmentation, said Travis Bruner, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. Unless the plans fully safeguard the most important remaining habitats from heavy industrial uses, Endangered Species Act protections will be triggered.

 

Copyright 2015 idahostatesman.com.

This article originally appeared here.

Jeffrey pine photo by John Villinski.