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For Immediate Release, June 28, 2010

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Jon Marvel, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 788-2290
Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians, (503) 757-4221

New Lawsuit Filed to Protect Sage Grouse Under Endangered Species Act

Greater sage grouse
Greater sage grouse. Photo by Gary Kramer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

PORTLAND, Ore.— Western Watersheds Project, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians filed suit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for delaying Endangered Species Act protection for the greater sage grouse, as well as two distinct populations of these theatrical, showy birds — the bi-state population found in Nevada and California and the Columbia Basin population found in Washington.

“The sage grouse needs protection under the Endangered Species Act to have any chance at survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. “More bureaucratic delay places sage grouse at increased risk of extinction from further habitat destruction and other factors.”

In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the grouse warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act but that such protection is precluded by higher priority listings of species. But under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service can only delay protection of species if it is making “expeditious progress” in listing the other priority species. This is not the case. Under the Bush administration, listing of new species ground to a near halt, with only a total of 62 species listed in eight years compared to 522 listed under President Clinton and 231 listed under the senior Bush. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not substantially increased the pace of species listings. It did finalize a proposal from the previous administration to protect 48 species from the island of Kauai, but has to date only finalized protection for two plants in the conterminous United States. 

There are currently 245 species waiting for protection under the Endangered Species Act. In many cases, these species, on the brink of disappearing, have been awaiting protection for decades.

“Delay in protecting the sage grouse is a recipe for extinction for these magnificent birds,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “We had hoped the Obama administration would move quickly to reduce the backlog of species waiting for protection, but instead it’s adding to the backlog.”

“The government has determined that sage grouse are warranted for listing — that was the hard part,” said Mark Salvo, director of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign for WildEarth Guardians. “To not list the species now is a waste of time and taxpayer resources.”

The groups are represented by Advocates for the West.

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