Interior/WildEarth Guardians agree to analyze backlog of candidate Endangered Species

The list of species the federal government has been more or less forced to consider for ESA protection has been growing longer and longer over the years, and yet it acts very slowly, complaining that species are being added at too fast a rate. Much of the agency’s tiny budget was eaten up responding to new petitions and defending itself from lawsuits trying to force it to consider various species for ESA protection.

Yesterday, however, it was announced the Department of Interior had made a deal with WildEarth Guardians to analyze 251 species in the backlog over the next 6 years. Officials say this will help clear the backlog. In the last four years WildEarth Guardians was filed about 700 petitions to list species. With this deal, Guardians will be allowed to file only up to ten new ESA petitions a year. Guardians will also ask to have all its pending lawsuits in the matter dismissed.

There is no assurance the government will list any species in the agreement, although it is likely quite a few will end being listed. Some, such as the greater sage grouse, are much more controversial than others. The sage grouse is controversial because it has been heavily impacted by the politically potent livestock sector as well as oil, gas, and wind development.

This is an agreement only with Guardians and does not prevent any other group from filing petitions.

Under the ESA, it was not supposed to work this way. The law’s supporters expected the environment-conscious government would discover and list species on its own accord with citizen petititions to list a species serving only as backup. The reality has been much to the opposite, however.

This deal has yet to be approved by a federal judge.

Interior Dept. strikes deal to clear backlog on endangered species listings. By Juliet Eilperin. Washington Post.

Wild Earth Guardians web site on the agreement

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More on 5-12-2011. The deal includes the sage grouse. Felicity Barringer at the New York Times tells how the sage grouse got to where it is. A Bird’s Convoluted Conservation Odyssey

Judge overturns BLM grazing decision

This is what WWP calls “low hanging fruit”

Ely Sheep Grazing Allotments. The orange polygons represent bighorn sheep distribution and the red polygon represents the Warm Springs sheep trail. Click for larger view.

For the last several years I have been appealing grazing decision issued by the Ely District of the BLM and, over and over again, the District only considers alternatives which maintain the status quo even when they have identified problems on the allotments that are either caused by or exacerbated by livestock grazing.

The decision that was overturned and remanded back to the Ely District was for sheep grazing on 8 allotments encompassing 1.3 million acres of the Egan Field Office.  In their decision the BLM only considered two alternatives, one which would have renewed the previous 10-year decision without any changes; and one which would have renewed the permit with very minor changes in seasonal use, and placed very weak utilization standards on different components of the vegetation but kept the exact same number of grazing AUMs.  They didn’t consider a no grazing alternative or an alternative which would have reduced grazing levels at all.

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Federal Judge Edward Lodge slaps BLM on Pahsimeroi grazing allotment decision

Total victory for Western Watersheds Project and Advocates for the West in four grazing allotments-

Idaho’ federal judge Ed Lodge rarely rules in favor of conservation groups, but the defective job the BLM did on these 4 grazing allotments provoked a complete victory for WWP and an strong rebuke to the manager of the BLM’s Challis Field Office, David Rosenkrance. Rosenkrance has been criticized for years for running an incestuous, good old boy operation in this beautiful, if degraded, potentially terrific  wildlife area. Fortunately last week was the end date for Rosenkrance in Idaho.  He has been moved off to the BLM in Colorado.

Judge Lodge ruled that all three of the plaintiff”s claims were valid: that BLM violated the law by not analyzing the impacts to endangered bull trout, by refusing to consider a no- or low- grazing alternative when evaluating the impacts, and by failing to study the cumulative impacts of grazing in the area.

I understand there are similar appeals out there that will succeed because of this decision.

Here is a link to decision at the Advocates for the West web site.

The high Pahsimeroi Mtns from the east (Pahsimeroi Valley). BLM Grouse Creek Allotment. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Here is an interactive Google Map of the 4 grazing allotments (created by Western Watersheds Project).

Update. An AP story just came out on the decision. Judge rules against BLM on Idaho grazing permits. By Keith Ridler. Jan. 10, 2011 By The Associated Press

Spring Valley, Nevada

Lenticular clouds over Spring Valley, NV ~ Fall 2010 Katie Fite, WWP

Where NOT to hastily site an Industrial-scale Wind Energy Project
Just north of Great Basin National Park, east of Ely in Eastern Nevada, lies a public landscape called Spring Valley.

Spring Valley is a miraculous place, renowned for its magnificent skies and as critical habitat for sagebrush obligate species such as sage grouse and pygmy rabbit.

Unfortunately, like so many obscure public places around the west, the innumerable environmental values Spring Valley harbors are under threat, ironically by so-called “green energy” projects.

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In Canada Sage grouse on Path to Extinction

The Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are losing sage grouse fast.  So fast, that the birds may disappear entirely from the Canadian landscape.

Industry blamed for bird’s demise – Sage grouse on path to extinctionEdmonton Journal

Unrestrained gas development in southern Alberta could drive the sage grouse to extinction in this province within two years, says a University of Alberta scientist.

Mark Boyce has studied sage grouse since 1977,first in Wyoming and for the last decade in Alberta. He might be lacking a study subject soon, though. It’s estimated only 90 birds remain in the province.

Grousing at windmills

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Grousing at windmills | Need to Know | PBS

Wind resistance

Will the petrocracy — and greens — keep Wyoming from realizing its windy potential?

Wind power is not a popular thing in Wyoming for some and very popular for others. It is very unpopular for advocates for sage grouse and other birds.

Wind resistance.
High Country News

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