White House won't protect sage grouse: Good news?

The iconic Western bird does not meet requirements to be listed as an endangered species – but that's a good thing, says the Department of the Interior.

Bob Wick/BLM/Reuters/File
A long-simmering debate in the American West over the imperiled ground-dwelling greater sage grouse reached a climax on Tuesday, with the Obama administration announcing it would not give the chicken-sized bird Endangered Species Act protections.

The White House is announcing Tuesday that it will not offer federal protection for the greater sage grouse, an iconic ground-dwelling bird at the forefront of a long-burning environmental debate.

The Department of the Interior said Tuesday that the chicken-sized grouse – one of the most recognizable species of the West – did not meet the required standard to be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Due to ranching, gas drilling, mineral mining, and wildfires on its habitat, the grouse population has fallen from several million to about 200,000, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

But in recent months, federal agencies, conservationists, governors, and landowners across millions of acres of grasslands in 10 states have come together to work to reduce the threat to the grouse.

Department Secretary Sally Jewell says the response was unprecedented, calling it “the largest land conservation effort in US history."

Officials noted that threats to the bird have been reduced on more than 90 percent of its breeding habitat.

"The greater sage grouse remains relatively abundant and well-distributed across the species’ 173-million acre range and does not face the risk of extinction now or in the foreseeable future," reported the USDA.

Choosing to not list the bird under the Act is a nod to the unprecedented cooperation among "groups that typically are at one another’s throats, from federal agencies to conservationists to governors to landowners," reported the Monitor’s Amanda Paulson in June.

As Ms. Paulson wrote, the government "uses the Endangered Species Act as a stick: If these groups don’t come together and act on their own, the sage grouse could be listed by Sept. 30, and that would bring in the federal government in a much more restrictive way."

The Bureau of Land Management, for instance, "historically not known for its sympathy to conservation efforts," has joined the effort – already a mark of progress, noted the Monitor.

But environmentalists say that by not listing the sage grouse, the government has caved to political pressure, from industries that argue there are billions of dollars to be lost in economic activity.

Listing the iconic bird as endangered would have forced big changes to ranching and energy operations across the region.

The decision is no large surprise for those who’ve been following hints from officials, who have for months suggested that local conservation efforts could be enough without federal protection, according to The Washington Post.

"I remain optimistic that they might not receive the 'endangered' designation," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said earlier this month, at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

"This is not only good news for the greater sage grouse," said Secretary Jewell in a video statement released Tuesday, "but for Westerners who want to honor their proud wildlife and outdoor heritage – and pass it on to future generations."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to White House won't protect sage grouse: Good news?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today