Today, in response to successful litigation brought by Western Watersheds Project and our attorneys at Advocates For The West, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Greater Sage Grouse would not be protected by listing the species under the protections of the Endangered Species Act.
The Secretary did acknowledge that listing was warranted but was precluded by other species with a higher priority for protection.
The decision not to list Greater Sage Grouse is in response to a great deal of political pressure from western states and extractive industries including oil. gas and renewable energy development interests as well as traditional uses like livestock grazing and energy transmission facilities.
Western Watersheds Project will review the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service support documents for this decision and determine if the agency has complied with the law.
If it is clear that the law has been violated, WWP will then decide if additional litigation would be helpful to protect this disappearing species in the American west.
Ultimately the protection of Greater Sage Grouse will benefit a diversity of wildlife and habitat on public lands that span the Sagebrush Sea, the most imperiled landscape in North America.
On February 19, 2010, Chief District Judge Lynn B. Winmill denied Western Watersheds Project and our conservation partners’ request for a preliminary injunction to stop the Idaho Department of Fish & Game from landing helicopters in the Frank Church Wilderness to radio collar wolves. The judge's determination was based on the Challis National Forest's disingenuous claim that the landing of helicopters and collaring of wolves in the wilderness area was necessary for wolf research.
Judge Winmill did throw WWP a partial victory when he concluded that any future applications for the use of helicopters in the Frank Church Wilderness would be met with a much higher bar before such use could be authorized. Read Judge Winmill’s decision.
WWP’s Board President Kelley Weston, and WWP's NEPA Coordinator Ken Cole, have both just returned from trips into the wilderness to observe wolves and the helicopter activity.
Kelley was visited by a wolf pack who chased elk through his camp on Warm Springs Creek while in the wilderness. Ken Cole's wilderness experience was harmed when bighorn sheep he was watching were disrupted and fled from an Idaho Department of Fish & Game helicopter.
Even though the effort to block the use of helicopters in designated Wilderness has not been successful to date, Western Watersheds Project’s able representation by Advocates for the West attorney Laurie Rule continues with a hearing now scheduled for Summary Judgement in front of Judge Winmill to resolve this case on the merits.
WWP also has two additional claims in this litigation that seek to stop Wildlife Service's slaughter of wolves in Idaho and prevent grazing on the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Those claims will be considered by the judge in the course of the next several months.