Western leaders assess Zinke’s sage grouse plan. In the wake of Sec. Zinke’s recent secretarial order on sage grouse conservation, officials across the country have begun to weigh in on the potential effects of the order on the species.
In Colorado, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) stated, “I am pleased to see action out of Interior that will reverse the one-size-fits-all approach that jeopardized the ongoing work being done in states to preserve and recover the species.” Officials from four northwest Colorado counties also noted that despite the order, a pending lawsuit against the Interior Department will remain active. Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky stated he is “encouraged” that the new order will mean better coordination between states and the federal government, but until then he is not prepared to drop the lawsuit, which asserts the existing Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sage grouse plan harms the county’s economy and lacks a of balanced approach to land use. Jankovsky along with other county commissioners expressed concern that Zinke’s plan focuses heavily on state-federal cooperation, but fails to mention local governments.
In Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead was critical of the order, stating he believes the plan will eventually hit a “dead end” and should instead focus on habitat preservation.
Wyoming officials speak out on ESA reform. Western leaders and bipartisan legislators are speaking out on the need for Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform and what the changes might look like. Since January, Congress has introduced a number of bills to amend the ESA. Bipartisan reform efforts continue on both the state and federal level.
This week, Wyoming Public Radio featured the voices of several officials on their take on the current use of the ESA. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik supports reform efforts, noting that he has witnessed firsthand how the ESA has failed his state’s conservation efforts and why he promotes greater state jurisdiction. According to Nesvik, “By all biological and scientific measures, grizzly bears have been recovered in Wyoming since 2003. And to this day, after being delisted once and re-listed again, they still remain under federal protections… the goal is not perpetual federal management.”
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso has also called for ESA reform, stating that “For every 100 species added to the list only three have recovered enough to come off of the list. As a doctor, I will tell you if for every 100 people I put in the hospital only three recovered enough to come out. I would lose my medical license!”
In the News
Veterans Lobby to Keep Sage Grouse Plans in Place. Public News Service. Veterans from Colorado, Arizona and Montana are marching into the nation’s capital to make sure riders are not attached to a defense bill that would block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting the greater sage grouse. Garett Reppenhagen, Rocky Mountain director with the Vet Voice Foundation, said the National Defense Authorization Act shouldn’t be used to reverse critical conservation efforts. “It’s a bill that’s supposed to be used to prepare our soldiers and service members to go overseas and do the job we want them to do, not take away rights that they have when they come home, and take away the lands that they’ve helped defend,” Reppenhagen said. Last week the Trump administration called for a review of plans to protect the sagebrush sea to find out if energy production is being negatively impacted. A new study by Western EcoSystems Technology found just 4 percent of sage grouse habitat overlaps with existing coal or oil and gas leases on federal land.
Fish and Wildlife Service issue notice about endangered species recovery permit. U.S. Fed News (Press Release). Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, has issued a notice called: Endangered Species Recovery Permit Applications. The notice, published in the Federal Register on June 13 by Nicole Alt, Deputy Assistant Regional Director, Mountain-Prairie Region, states: “We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invite the public to comment on the following applications for a permit to conduct activities intended to enhance the survival of endangered species. With some exceptions, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), prohibits certain activities that may impact endangered species unless a Federal permit allows such activity. The Act also requires that we invite public comment before issuing these permits.”
Colorado’s rarest fish. The Denver Post. Some slippery, spotted greenback cutthroat trout — Colorado’s long-lost and imperiled state fish — took a hit for their species Tuesday morning. Not that the trout, lolling in a shady mountain creek southwest of Colorado Springs, had a choice. They endured five Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists sloshing into their already-degraded habitat to collect genetic material – eggs and milt – as part of an unprecedented ecological rescue. CPW’s Cory Noble lugged a 30-pound LR-24 Electrofisher strapped to his back, beeping like a backing-up beer truck, red light flashing, shooting electricity into the water. Cutthroats stunned by the electricity found themselves netted and then squeezed by CPW senior aquatic biologist Josh Nehring.
Sierra Club, Bold Nebraska experts say Keystone XL would threaten whooping cranes. Lincoln Star Journal. Transmission lines to power pumping stations for the planned Keystone XL pipeline would imperil endangered whooping cranes, according to experts testifying on behalf of Bold Nebraska and the Sierra Club before a state commission tasked with regulation of the pipeline route through Nebraska. “Of all the known threats to whooping cranes, collisions with power lines are the primary cause of mortality,” Paul Johnsguard, a bird expert and retired University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor of biological sciences, said. … TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said the proposed Keystone XL route does not cross critical habitat areas of the whooping crane, a fact that was outlined in a U.S. State Department environmental review finalized in 2015. The company plans to develop and implement a conservation plan following the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Endangered species cuts could hit jobs in Montana. Independent Record. Many state groups and agencies that handle Endangered Species Act functions for the federal government have been casting worried looks at the endangered status of their funding. President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget hits corners of several agencies that protect threatened animals like bull trout and grizzly bears. Should those cuts come to pass, that could also endanger lots of jobs in Montana. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and Future Fisheries funding have been some of the most critical sources of funding in the Blackfoot, and have been for the last 30 years,” said Ryen Neudecker, who coordinates restoration work in the Blackfoot and Seeley-Swan areas northeast of Missoula for Trout Unlimited. “We estimate in the last 20 years, there have been 223 jobs created. That’s the restoration economy that’s tied to small communities. We’re hiring local. We’re buying headgates and pipe and fish screens from people right here in the valley.”