Sage grouse problems not insurmountable

The challenges in keeping sage grouse off the endangered species list are complex but not unsolvable, the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior said. Sally Jewell on Tuesday toured some of Idaho’s best sage grouse habitat in the south-central part of the state, hearing from biologists, land managers and ranchers on efforts being made to preserve areas for the chicken-sized bird.

Federal land managers face a deadline as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under court order to decide next year whether the bird should receive federal protection. Experts told Jewell that wildfire, habitat loss due to development and invasive species are the main threats to sage grouse.

“We do have time and we do have knowledge and we have partnerships that we didn’t have a decade or two decades ago so I think that is very encouraging,” Jewell said. “But we also have increasing risk with a longer, hotter wildfire season.”

On Thursday, the Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services officials were in Wyoming to sign a conservation agreement between the agencies, the state and nine private landowners that could help prevent listing sage grouse nationally under the Endangered Species Act.

–American Sheep Industry