Western Watersheds, allies win again. This time on Mono Basin sage grouse

Below is the news release. These folks seem to win or make a favorable settlement on a lawsuit almost every day. Ralph Maughan


For Immediate Release, February 21, 2008Contacts:
Lisa Belenky, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 385-5694 (cell)
Katie Fite, Biodiversity Director, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 429-1679
Mark Salvo, Director, Sagebrush Sea Campaign, WildEarth Guardians, (503) 757-4221

Sage Grouse Protection to Be Revisited: Bush Administration Agrees to Reassess Endangered Species Act Protection for Mono Basin Population

San Francisco– Conservation groups today announced they have reached a settlement in a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s decision not to consider the groups’ petition to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Under the settlement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to a voluntary remand of the earlier decision and must provide a new “90-day” finding by April 25, 2008.The Center for Biological Diversity, Sagebrush Sea Campaign, Western Watersheds Project, and Desert Survivors filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in federal court in August 2007, challenging the agency’s December 2006 decision not to consider listing the Mono Basin area sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

Conservation organizations petitioned the government to recognize the Mono Basin area sage grouse as a distinct population segment and list the population as “endangered” or “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 2005. In December 2006 the Fish and Wildlife Service denied the petition, acknowledging that Mono Basin area sage grouse are genetically distinct from other greater sage grouse but holding that the petition did not demonstrate sufficiently that the species was at risk of extinction. Conservation groups contend that the Service ignored or dismissed significant evidence of impacts from increasing habitat loss and fragmentation from development, livestock grazing, off-road vehicle use, increased fire frequency and intensity, the spread of invasive, nonnative plants, and drought.

“This settlement requires the Bush administration to do what it should have done at the outset – fairly assess the listing petition,” explains Lisa Belenky, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Service has agreed to go back and reassess the information in the petition regarding the status of this population of the sage grouse and the threats to its survival.”

Greater sage grouse range and distribution have been reduced by 56 percent, and populations have declined by as much as 93 percent from presumed historic levels. In the Mono Basin, sage grouse habitat is being destroyed due to development, increased off-road vehicle use, roads, and utility lines. Hunting for sage grouse continues in California and the species is also increasingly vulnerable due to climate change impacts and global warming.

“The Service ignored well documented threats to the species, cast aside our listing petition and avoided conducting a status review of the Mono Basin grouse,” said Mark Salvo, director of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign. “This settlement advances genetically distinct Mono Basin area sage-grouse one step closer to needed protections.”

Listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act would provide broad protection to the Mono Basin area sage grouse, including a requirement that U.S. federal agencies ensure that any action they carry out, authorize, or fund will not “jeopardize the continued existence” of this unique population of the species.






  1. jimbob Avatar

    I think that all of these refusals to list will eventually be struck down by any neutral party with common sense (We can only hope). It seems the EPA, park service, and any other governmental agency has been instructed by the Bush Amin. and their “appointees” that ANYTHING that could disrupt business or profit should and will be ignored or struck down! That is why they have refused to list anything. In the past, the only defense that the public has had to limit harmful activities by businesses or the government has been the ESA. When the Bush Admin. came into power it seemed they went after their two biggest enemies: Iraq, and the ESA. I’m not making a comparison between the two, but the fervor with which they went after both is comparable!

  2. Brian Ertz Avatar

    it’s troubling how irresponsible this administration has been in this regard.

    Bush is like the little dutch boy plugging up every little breach in the dam with each finger and toe. flushing all the listings through at once, as it seems may be the case with a paradigm shift (regard for the law) at FWS will force all of any economic impact at once ~ perhaps this is the point … to build all of that up and give it as much bang when it happens rather than have the regulations smoothly ramp up and adjustments made over time. but how will advocates/activists keep this past decade of negligence in context to avoid a prospective backlash and curtail the political calls for dismembering/diluting one of the most important environmental laws to date ?

  3. Maska Avatar

    Brian makes an excellent point with regard to the potential impact of a change of course at USFWS. Not only are there the economic impacts, with probable backlash, to deal with, but we may well find ourselves in a situation like that under the Clinton administration, where FWS placed a moratorium on new listings, claiming insufficient funding in the Interior budget to deal with them. (And that was in a time of a robust economy!)

    Even a well-intentioned Interior secretary may find him/herself up against very difficult budgetary problems–especially given the fact that Congress will be facing a huge unaddressed war debt, as well as lowered tax revenues due to likely recession in the economy. The damage wrought by the Bush administration will reverberate for decades. Many species will certainly be lost as a result, even if the ESA itself survives more or less intact.

    I’d be very interested to hear others’ thoughts about strategies for dealing with this problem.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It looks increasingly like the Democrats will win, and Clinton won’t be the Democrat’s nominee.

    Groups need to get to Obama right now, volunteer their help, and spell out their priorities.

    Obama’s naivate on the 1872 Mining Act shows that people can’t just trust him to know what to do on these issues.

    Bill Clinton was poor a first, although he made some good appointments. He then got better, especially after vacationing twice in Jackson Hole.

  5. Brian Ertz Avatar

    I think that ultimately Obama won’t do it for anyone, but he may provide the space for activists to do it for themselves… unfortunately – this is the “hope” for “change” that folk are left with.

    the answer can’t be to relent on pushing for listings ~ i think it’s a use it or lose it proposition with tools/teeth as important as the ESA. litigation is a good leverage in this regard. think of how many resources Bush has blown by creating this atmosphere of lawlessness. make it more expensive to act lawlessly (it already is really).

    The priorities of a budgetary nature are certainly foreboding. However, they are just that – priorities. Clinton put a moratorium on listings – he didn’t want to take on industry. Consider a priority whereby extractive “uses” running at deficit were the programs that got cinched first ~ i.e. – if it can’t be done in tune with environmental regulation and be solvent in its own right, it ought not be the problem of the American people to pony up to line a few industry’s pockets. it helps to have robust public interest orgs not ensnared in cooptation w/ industry wielding a stick to provide the space for such administrative decisions. there are plenty of GAO reports that even just I have flipped through which give account of any number of industrial uses of DOI land that are run at deficit ~ logging, grazing, etc. i.e. the “stewardship” contracting is a joke once accounting gets descrambled. destroying the earth and calling it restoration is expensive. many of the problems result from antiquated fee contrivances that give no regard to market-valuation of resource – let alone self-sufficiency. that needs to be fixed, but that’s legislation. Administratively, Babbitt got spanked by Livestock early on for such ambition, trying to get a grazing fee that was a bit less absurd – perhaps this confrontation informed Clinton’s priority with listing, but influence in that regard is waning as political salience builds behind large confrontations with inevitability on the horizon (see: global warming). Global warming can be a renewable source of political capital to make difficult decisions – and hopefully it will bring humility.

    ultimately, i think there will always be enough money to conserve – when the priorities begin reflecting the idea that wildlife management has less to do with managing wildlife and more to do with managing human meddling and misplaced ambition in wild places. that priority needs to be pronounced.


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.

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Ralph Maughan