At one time, there were 16 million greater-sage grouse across the western portion of the United States. Now there are fewer than 500,000. When a species gets into this kind of trouble, federal agencies usually get involved and making a living off of the land becomes very difficult.
So hundreds of people from across the West are now working together to come up with a collaborative conservation plan to keep the bird from the brink and off the endangered species list.
In 2016, governors from the West came together with then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. They drew up plans to save the threatened species. But now many are perplexed as to why the Department of Interior under Secretary Ryan Zinke are trying to upend those plans.
The agency said it would no longer prioritize drilling outside of sage grouse habitat, which is one of the core tenets of the plan. It seems that this effort does not fit In with the administration’s energy dominance agenda.
Western governors from both parties sentiments were summed up by Gov. Matt Mead (R-Wyo.).
“Mineral companies need long-term predictability as they decide where to put capital. On top of that the bird needs a long-term plan,” the governor said. “We can’t have wholesale changes in wildlife management every four or eight years. I don’t think that is the best way to sustain populations or provide the necessary predictability to industry and business in our states.”
And now almost 600,000 Americans have asked the government to leave the plans alone, to honor the deal that was made.
Now many are awaiting the results of the Department of Interior’s assessment of the comments.
The message was pretty simple: the changes the agency proposes in each of the states, taken as a whole, add up to trouble for the bird. That trouble likely leads to a listing under the Endangered Species Act.