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Salazar, Mead discuss sage grouse habitat

Salazar, Mead discuss sage grouse habitat

Monday, December 12, 2011

Salazar, Mead discuss sage grouse habitat
A report by Wyoming PBS News partner, Wyoming Business Report

By Wyoma Groenenberg

CHEYENNE — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said that Wyoming’s efforts to protect the sage grouse and its habitat, while working to keep the economy healthy, is the template to follow for other Western states. The secretary and Gov. Matt Mead held a press conference this afternoon.

Salazar is in Cheyenne meeting with Mead and representatives from 11 states to discuss strategies, challenges and collaboration possibilities among federal, state and local governments to avoid listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

“The way I see it is that it’s a challenge,” Salazar said, noting that protecting sage grouse habitat and possibly slowing or halting energy development is “threatening the way of life of the West. He said that states must take action before [habitat protection] becomes an issue” by taking away energy-related jobs and presents other economic problems.

“I’m hopeful that working with all these states, we can selectively be proactive in a unique way. If we can do this in a cooperative fashion, not just from the federal government, we can model on how to address other issues,” he said, adding that states’ rights and responsibilities also must come into play.

Salazar said he believes that all of the entities involved —governments and wildlife organizations — can come up with a program, which in turn also would protect 80 other wildlife species.

Salazar noted that the Obama administration wants to continue domestic oil, gas and other energy development, as well as recreational to assure jobs in those areas. Listing the sage grouse on the ESA could result in energy development restrictions on millions of acres of their habitat.

Mead said he appreciates the work already done by the state regarding sage grouse and noted that 80 percent of Wyoming is affected by the birds’ habitat and population areas.

Wyoming Wildlife Federation members also are meeting with Salazar today to present letters from hunters and anglers across the state who support oil and natural gas leasing reforms that have brought clarity and consistency to managing public lands.

“The 54 letters written during the last 18 months express appreciation for Salazar’s common sense approach to energy development on the public lands treasured by Wyoming hunters, anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts,” said Courtney Amerine, WWF’s field organizer.

Salazar noted that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has to make a decision by 2015 for listing the sage grouse as endangered and what conservation measures will be enacted. Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are seeking public input.

Sage grouse are found in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, North and South Dakota, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and California.

Wyoming Business Report