Sage-grouse are on the verge of being listed under the Endangered Species Act. In fact, in 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the species warranted protection under the Act but that listing is precluded by the need to address higher priority listings. Idaho took proactive steps to recover this species before a listing decision was made. The management plan, which is a partnership with private landowners, is an attempt to be wise stewards of the nation’s wildlife without being compelled to do so by law. In the past I worked with other members of the Idaho congressional delegation to ensure that Congress provided funding for the wide-ranging, collaborative on-the-ground efforts that have improved habitat for the sage grouse.
In 1996, the State of Idaho became one of the first states in the country to develop a comprehensive plan for conserving the sage-grouse and its habitat. It amended the plan in 2006, and that has led to the prioritization and implementation of numerous conservation actions for the benefit of the species. I believe it is because of these efforts that the Department of the Interior issued a “warranted but precluded” ruling regarding protections for sage-grouse rather that listing the species.
Thankfully, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that sage-grouse do not warrant a listing under ESA. However, this did not come without a price. The Obama Administration proposed sweeping changes to the land management plans which many states – like Idaho – felt cut them out of the process at the very end. That is why I was pleased to see Secretary Zinke open the process back up, so states could provide input on common sense conservation measures that more accurately impact conserving species on the ground. This decision was important to restoring the collaborative process between federal and state partners so there is an opportunity to realign the federal plan, with that of Idaho’s, which received positive feedback from the USFWS.