"Today's decision cannot and need not become an implied farewell to the Greater Sage Grouse, the western sage habitat or all it sustains. We won't get immediate listing, but we are seeing historic progress toward preserving vital habitat and charting the course to rebuilding grouse populations and thriving western economies.
"The decision means it's time to get serious about a new kind of core-focused habitat protection that relies on state data and sound science to safeguard sage grouse and our Western communities, too.
"The Interior Department is on the right path with its new science-based plans to expand the directive to identify and use core habitats to shift energy development away from vital sage grouse breeding grounds as well as to manage other challenges to the future of this iconic species across 60 million acres in eleven western states. This can make a huge difference for survival of the grouse and the health of local economies. What began as a way to make species conservation compatible with intelligent energy production in Wyoming is now poised to get results across the West.
"Today's decision provides science-based confirmation of what we've known for 50 years—that the Greater Sage Grouse is in dire peril. Despite the 'precluded' finding, the core-area approach gives us a science-based tool for doing something about it.
"We look to the states to use sound science and broad stakeholder input to identify and designate the core-areas that can help save this species, healthy sage ecosystems and the traditional Western way of life. The approach must be employed effectively and without exception. It is an opportunity we must seize together. Audubon will stay focused on following this promising path to victory for the wildlife and the people of the west. Together, we can save an imperiled wildlife icon and make the correct land use decisions from the start. Audubon will do everything possible to ensure success. We will not accept failure."
In December of 2007, a Federal Judge ruled that under the Bush-Cheney Administration, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service ignored experts' advice and failed to use the "best science" available when deciding not to give the species protection under the Endangered Species Act. Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Federal District Court also found that a former official used intimidation and edited scientific conclusions to keep the birds from being listed as endangered.
In January of 2010, BLM adopted maps drawing from Audubon and U.S. Fish & Wildlife expertise to help govern the use of eight million acres of federal land in Wyoming. The agency then expanded the mapping of grouse densities to cover up to 60 million acres across 11 states where the species occurs.
In making their decision, U.S. Fish & Wildlife drew upon a study co-authored by Kevin Doherty of Audubon Wyoming which concluded that maps of where oil and gas development is anticipated in the US Intermountain West can be used by decision-makers intent on minimizing impacts to sage-grouse. This analysis also provided a general framework for using predictive models to anticipate impacts to species. These models allow tradeoffs to be considered between species conservation and energy development prior to implementation. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007400
Read the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's endorsement of Wyoming's core area strategy
See the official press release about the decision by the Department of Interior here www.fws.gov/news/NewsReleases/showNews.cfm