Grousing Around

Joan McCarter looks at some of Wyoming’s recent strategies to protect sage grouse, avoid ESA listing of Sage grouse to keep Oil & Gas happy.

Grousing Around
Is the sage grouse the 21st century’s spotted owl?NewWest

The recent hustle and bustle that has surrounded Sage grouse follows a federal judge’s summary judgment decision finding Bush’s Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to deny the bird protection was arbitrary and capricious as plaintiff Western Watersheds Project had argued.  Julie MacDonald was heavily implicated in the decision.

As folk might remember, WWP’s settlement following this decision extended the deadline for a new listing decision from FWS until later this year – until after completion of a West-wide comprehensive study on the bird’s status, so that details of that study would inform the new determination.  The justice department, representing FWS, signed that agreement.  Very soon after, Bush’s FWS tried to pull out of the settlement – wanting to make a new decision before completion of the study.  Hmmm…

The listing of sage grouse could potentially re-invent land management throughout the West in the country’s most imperilled landscape – the Sagebrush Sea – bringing meaningful protections to the landscape, Sage grouse – and to a host of other species dependent on the Sagebrush Sea.


  1. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    I live in an area that has a pretty good population of sage grouse, northwest Colorado.. Where there is heavy oil and gas development (Powder Wash and Hiawatha fields), there are very few birds. There is some pretty heavy development going on 40 miles east along State Route 13. Unfortunately there is a number of leks in this area. I fear that after the next count, we will see a decline in birds. I would attribute the decline to oil and gas development. Unfortunately, most of the land in this area is private. A lot of these private parcels have split-estate land use and the owners do not have much to say about drilling. Listing is the only hope for these birds.


  2. Don Riley Avatar
    Don Riley

    “Wyoming’s efforts, matched with those of our federal partners and private landowners, will hopefully start us down the road to the point where no one even looks at needing to list the grouse in this state.” One of the Governor’s remarks on Monday, August 1, 2008, while announcing the States “Grouse guidelines” for development in “CORE GROUSE HABITAT”. Guidelines which are unenforceable except on State land and State agencies.
    Tuesday, August 5, 2008…….
    BLM leases are in ‘core’ sage grouse areas. In excess of 50,000 acres of the leases are in the “Core Areas” identified by the task force set in motion in 2005.

    I guess it is just Wyoming leaders who think all of their constituents are stupid but I don’t understand this Governor. He is in the second term, can’t run for a third legally , at least at the present time, professes to be a wildlife advocate and could have just said no more until you guys clean up your act. To be fair, he has supported legislation to protect the Wind River Mountains and was able to pass legislation to use State funds for habitat protection which was wtered down by the legislature, but at least it is a start.

  3. Brian Ertz Avatar

    They know what’s coming – they’ve been spinning their wheels trying to stall listing – and probably would have been successful had there not been anyone willing to litigate.

    Sage grouse are dwindling – the states’ efforts to preserve the species without hindering the industries largely responsible for their imperiled numbers is proving ineffective – for all the ‘working groups’ and ‘partnerships’ that they’ve been using to try to sidestep the ESA – it’s looking like the ESA is going to have a role.

    Stall, stall, stall — usually it’s the enviros that get criticized for slamming the breaks these processes — seems to be a double standard.


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Brian Ertz