Battle for the core of Wyoming
by Jonathan Thompson
In February, the feds will decide whether to protect the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, thereby blanketing the entire sage grouse range and a huge swath of Wyoming, which is home to more than half the remaining grouse, with federal regulations. That would hit Wyoming's oil and gas industry hard. Hoping to avoid the ESA hammer, the state came up with its own plan: Map out important sage grouse habitat, or core areas, and do what it can to protect them, while encouraging development elsewhere. The approach covers significantly less territory than a federal listing, but advocates believe it would protect 80 percent of the remaining sage grouse in the state.
The oil and gas industry has generally agreed to live with the concept. Leading green groups endorse it, too, saying it may be the bird's only politically feasible chance at survival. The maps show why the core area approach is so important to a state that receives over $1 billion each year from oil and gas; they also show why some conservationists and the wind industry -- which has essentially been banned from core areas -- aren’t too keen on the idea.