March 10, 2016
Online Messenger #331
Yesterday, Western Watersheds Project and our allies at the Center for Biological Diversity, Desert Survivors, and WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to afford Endangered Species Act protection for the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse. These genetically-distinct sage-grouse occur only on the California-Nevada border north and south of Mono Lake and face multiple threats to their survival.
The Service’s September 2015 finding that the Bi-State sage-grouse did not warrant protection was an abrupt about-face from its 2013 decision to protect the bird. That itself was a hard-fought outcome of a 2010 lawsuit, and now, we’re in court again seeking meaningful conservation for a population that remains at risk while the agency dithers.
In refusing to protect the bird, the Service relied upon new funding for measures in the Bi-State Action Plan. But that would fund activities on a mere 40,000 acres of private lands – less than one percent of the bird’s habitat.
Most of the 4.5 million acres of Bi-State sage-grouse habitat is on public lands, the bulk of which are grazed by livestock. Not a single federal land management plan has been amended to protect Bi-State sage-grouse, and the few proposed amendments will not conserve the bird. Ongoing livestock grazing on public lands will continue to threaten the grouse’s survival – from nest trampling, fenceline deaths, increased predation, vegetation composition changes, increased invasive species proliferation and increased fire risks.
Yesterday’s challenge seeks to remand the recent decision back to the Service so it can make an objective decision based on science, not politics.
The complaint is available online here.