Huge sage grouse listing decision delayed by the death of Sam Hamilton-
Don’t know how many caught the article posted on the sudden heart disease death of Obama’s director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? Anyway, the decision whether to put the sage grouse on the list has been delayed briefly. It was to come this Friday.
A year ago federal judge Lynn Winmill ordered USFWS to reevaluate their earlier denial to list this bird.
Sage grouse are “sagebrush obligate”. I learned this word a couple years ago. It means “depends on, cannot exist without” — the bird needs sagebrush absolutely for sure.
This shrubby emblem of the West isn’t doing well, at least in healthy continuous stands with the right kind of open spots, called “leks.”
Judge Winmill responded in favor of a suit by Western Watersheds project and Advocates for West because former assistant secretary of interior Julie MacDonald (under Bush) had admitted manipulating the findings of DOI scientists — changing their recommendations on a whole bunch of species. She admitted it herself. Many species have since gotten a new look by USFWS. The real biggie though is the sage grouse. That’s because it involves so much public land. Putting the bird on the list will impact off-road vehicles, grazing, oil and gas, geothermal, wind power development, electric transmission lines, and road building.
Livestock grazing is probably the biggest on-going problem. To public land grazers the colorful bird must seem like a strutting version of the devil.
Range fires fueled by cheatgrass and BLM plantings of non-native crested wheatgrass have destroyed several million ares of good habitat in the last 5 years.
Whatever outcome, this is major stuff.
Fish and Wildlife director’s death prompts week delay in sage grouse decision. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.
This map gives you an idea of magnitude of land affected.