Rep. Labrador applauds Trump administration on Sage Grouse

The U.S. Department of Interior announcement came this week when Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order that seeks to enhance state federal-state cooperation in management of greater sage grouse and reevaluate the BLM plan's impact on local economies and energy development.

The Obama administration's plan to save the greater sage grouse was widely heralded as a landmark moment in collaborative conservation when, almost two years ago, former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the effort to protect the rare Western bird.

On Wednesday, Jewell's successor, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, said he was ordering his agency to review core principles of the 2015 agreement, perhaps most notably its underlying premise that protecting the sage grouse requires protecting its distinctive habitat, the sprawling "sagebrush sea", which winds across the West from the Dakotas to California. "Wholesale changes to the land use plans are likely not necessary at this time". Republican governors in Idaho, Utah and Nevada all would prefer that the plan give them more flexibility and rely less on habitat preservation "and more on numbers" of birds in a particular state, Zinke said.

Environmentalists worry the sage grouse could be under greater threat than ever if the conservation plan is altered. "The ultimate danger of changing the existing framework is not only for the greater sage-grouse, but also for the jobs and industries that benefit from roughly $1 billion a year in economic output driven by sage-grouse habitat in the outdoor recreation and tourism sectors". He emphasized that it was created to improve the conservation efforts and bolster communications and collaboration with the states. "Secretary Zinke is giving Westerners a real chance to implement effective sage grouse protections tailored to actual conditions on the ground in each state", Sgamma said. According to the DOI press release accompanying the Order, the effort is meant to "explore [] possible plan modifications", "consider local economic growth and job creation", and evaluate whether the federal and state plans and programs are "complementary".

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The grouse population once was estimated at 16 million birds across North America.

Zinke, a former Montana congressman, in a statement from the agency, cited President Donald Trump's administration's support for energy development. U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, whose district covers the Magic Valley, called it a "positive first step". In April 2017, the North Dakota Game and Fish moved 60 sage grouse - 40 females and 20 males - from southern Wyoming to Bowman County in southwest North Dakota and marked them with Global Positioning System or VHF radio devices. "I look forward to the Department of Interior working hand in hand with states to make meaningful reforms to the management plans that reflect the input of local and state officials". In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would consider listing the species. What good would it be, he asked, to raise and release birds without enough habitat for them?

"The sage grouse faces huge problems from industrial development and livestock grazing across the West, and now the Interior Department seems to be squandering a major opportunity to put science before politics and solve these problems", said Erik Molvar wildlife biologist with WildEarth Guardians.

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