The Threat of Sage-Grouse to Coal Development

Sage-GrouseOur Efforts

Striking a Balance on Sage Grouse - by Mack Cole, President of Montanans for Responsible Energy Development
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Contact: fwpwld@mt.gov

The Greater Sage Grouse is a candidate species currently under review by the federal government for listing on the Endangered Species List.  The bird, which is native to 11 western states (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, California, North and South Dakota), had been declining in numbers for years.

A federal judge has required the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to make a determination on listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the federal Endangered Species Act by September 2015. If the Greater Sage Grouse is placed on the endangered species list, coal mining, oil and gas extraction, livestock grazing, outdoor recreation and even so called “green energy” development, like wind power, will be brought to a standstill, regardless of the land ownership where the development would take place.

Each affected state has or is developing a plan to address conservation efforts for the bird while attempting to minimize the economic impact to affected businesses in their state. While the plans vary they are all subject to acceptance by USFWS and BLM.

However, if the state produces a plan that is too strict, there is a possibility that a listing could end just being just as bad, or worse, than a listing. Governor Bullock has taken the initiative to put together the Sage Grouse Advisory Council in order to address the issue of trying to strike a balance between protecting the sage grouse, and protecting the industries that depend on the use of the natural resources that often lie beneath sage grouse habitat.

Wyoming is one state that has successfully implemented a state-driven sage grouse management plan that accomplishes the protection of the species and its habitat, without creating an insurmountable hurdle for energy producers and natural resource development. The Wyoming plan reaches this balance by working with industry leaders to establish buffer zones around leks (aka nests or breeding grounds) and workable limitations for areas of restricted surface occupancy.  

If the regulations in Montana’s plan are too strict, it is very likely that the consequences of overregulation would result in the closure of many resource development firms in the state and impact job growth across the state.

In order to ensure that a plan is put in place that protects the Sage Grouse and prevents their being listed under the Endangered Species Act, please take a moment to review the plan from the Governors Sage Grouse Advisory Council, and weigh in with the council members.

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Our Efforts

The sage grouse listing determination has a drop dead date of September 2015, when a federal judge has ordered that USFWS will determine whether to list the bird as threatened or endangered. Groups from the mining and energy development industries, sportsmen, owners, ranchers and farmers are coming together to:

Current Plan Status

Within the next week, the Governors Sage Grouse Advisory Council has to submit a final draft of the management proposal for review by the Governor, as well as approval from the USFWS. This process is continually evolving, but we will try to keep this page updated with the latest developments, so please check back often for updates.

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