More grousing

  • Neil Losin
 

Greater sage grouse -- whose numbers have declined by 90 percent over the past century -- deserve federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on March 5. For now, though, they won't get it: The feds say they have to deal with other species first. As non-decisive as it was, the decision was politically astute.

Energy industry folks, who would bear the brunt of ESA regulations, were mostly relieved. Conservationists were happy just to hear the feds acknowledge that the bird's in trouble, though more than one group sued over the do-nothing part of the decision. And by keeping the grouse out from under the ESA umbrella, the finding avoids making the bird a symbol of federal interference in rural affairs -- a good thing for the grouse. Perhaps most importantly, the non-decision keeps the threat of listing alive: The decision will be revisited annually. That should motivate sage grouse states, landowners and industry to step up efforts to protect the bird on their own.