Judge Winmill: Government must reconsider giving the sage grouse protection under the ESA

Talk about a blockbuster decision!

Once again Julie MacDonald’s corrupt procedures at Interior have rebounded. The lawsuit was filed by Western Watersheds Project, and was represented by the conservation law firm, Advocates for the West.

Story by Rocky Barker in the Idaho Statesman. Judge: Government must reconsider sage grouse

I see where this is the big, or a big story, in most of the western newspapers on Dec. 5.

I wonder if the Bush Administration will ever figure out there are consequences to not obeying the law?

– – – —

Update. Statement from the Western Watersheds Project

Western Watersheds Project Wins Court Order Overturning Bush Administration Decision Not To List Greater Sage Grouse !

Tuesday December 4, 2007

Today Western Watersheds Project won a remarkable Court Order from Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the federal District Court of the Idaho District that overturned the Bush Administration U.S. Fish and Wildlife decision that denied the protections of the Endangered Species Act for Greater Sage Grouse. WWP was ably represented in this litigation by our lead counsel Laird Lucas of Advocates For The West in Boise http://www.advocateswest.org . Thank you Laird !!

In his 35 page Order, Judge Winmill stated that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision “was tainted by the inexcusable conduct of one of its own executives, Julie McDonald, whose tactics included everything from editing scientific conclusions to intimidating FWS staffers.”

Interested readers can download the 35 page Court Order in PDF format from the WWP web site home page: http://www.westernwatersheds.org

Here is an early press story about this terrific federal Court Order (the blog comments at the Statesman URL are also interesting reading): !



  1. be Avatar

    From the article:

    Listing would likely have the impact on public land ranching that the listing of the spotted owl had on logging in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1980s. It also could slow oil and gas development, affect utility transmission line placement and affect real estate development on the edge of cities like Boise.

    one step closer …

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Protecting the sage grouse could literally save the West from being dismantled by the energy companies. Of course, they are folks who don’t let birds get in their way (or even the fact that their goals might cause a war).

  3. Cowboy the Cat Avatar

    If this holds up, This could be a “hallelujah” moment in my life…

    Too many mornings spent on a lek in the dark waiting for grouse to begin strutting while hearing a drill rig not a mile off…

  4. kt Avatar

    Everyone needs to keep an eye on the how agencies start Cooking the Books on Sage Grouse numbers and habitat. I anticipate a spate of Top Secret meetings in Butch Otter’s office (just like Ralph reported happened with Bighorn Sheep, where the backwards state of Idaho appears hellbent on supporting disease-riddled domestic sheep rather bighorns).

    State wildilfe officials across the West will be told to somehow find more grouse (four leks plus five leks will somehow equal 100 leks), we’ll see new efforts to blame “them predaturs”, and not habitat loss and fragmentation, and the effects of public lands grazing.

    Everytime any rancher or State or Industry hack brings up “predators” – remind them how Wolves being allowed to inhabit the sagebrush country of the West would HELP Sage Grouse – they would eat those nasty coyotes …

  5. Cowboy the Cat Avatar

    One question that comes to mind for me when reading the press on this is how badly would listing the sage grouse affect ranching? When I worked out in Wyoming, the main threat expressed was oil and gas development. Links would be great.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    See the story I just put up about Mike Stark’s analysis of the matter. It helps some.

  7. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    There are other critters that Julie MacDonald messed with that are getting revisited by FWS. One is the white-tailed Prairie Dog. It’s range is in northwest Colorado that i am aware. I do not know how far north it’s range extends. I suspect it goes into south central Wyoming, maybe as far north as Rock Springs or further. Anyone have a clue?

  8. Cowboy the Cat Avatar

    In my experience, white-taled prairie dogs are well established from the Eastern Colorado border North through all of the high plains of Wyoming. They are in high numbers at least as far west as Kemmerer, and Cokeville, and I would assume that that trend continues across the border into Idaho and Utah. When I say “high numbers” I am not presuming that the numbers are high enough to sustain the myriad predators that feed on this very important keystone species to the high prairie ecosystem. I suspect they should be much higher. “Plinking” is still legal, which sickens me.

    Incidentally, I never saw a black-tailed p-dog that I know of until I went to central Colorado.

  9. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    Thanks Cowboy. This gives me a little better perspective of the range of the white-tail p-dog. Should it be listed, along with the sage grouse, oil and gas will be in seerious trouble. Also, ranching will see some curtailment, I would think.

  10. Cowboy the Cat Avatar

    Yeah, I don’t see ANYBODY allowing the prairie-dog to be listed. It’s still on a Wyoming game and fish list of animals that can be shot on sight without a hunting permit. Also in this list are foxes, coyotes, and jack-rabbits. Probably more, but it’s been a while.

    The most I would ever see happening is making hunting prairie dogs without a license illegal.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan