FWS: Wyoming plan can result in long-term conservation of sage grouseWritten by Saige
Cheyenne – In response to his early-June revisions to the Greater Sage-Grouse Core Area Protection Executive Order, Governor Matt Mead has received a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) commending him and the Sage Grouse Implementation Team for their commitment to conserving sage grouse in Wyoming.
“There is an active effort to have the sage grouse listed, but this order reflects a state effort to develop a compromise acceptable to all sides,” says Mead of the order. “We need more of these state-led efforts to have a voice in protection of species, and I appreciate the federal government’s acknowledgement of our efforts and support of this strategy.”
Mead signed the order on June 2, and it updated an earlier order with the goal of providing more flexibility.
In the day following the order’s release, Mead sent a letter to the FWS requesting a response as to whether the federal agency continues to view implementation of the executive order as an adequate mechanism to preclude the need to list the species, and he asked if the order remains a sound policy to manage and protect sage grouse populations in Wyoming.
In their letter to Mead, the FWS replied, “We are pleased with the implementation of this conservation strategy and commend the work of your office and that of the Sage-Grouse Implementation Team for the continuing commitment to conserve the greater sage grouse in Wyoming.”
“The Service believes the Executive Order can result in the long-term conservation of the greater sage grouse, and thus reduce the need to list the species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). If fully implemented, we believe the Executive Order can provide the conservation program necessary to achieve your goal of precluding listing of the greater sage grouse in Wyoming,” continued the agency.
The FWS previously determined that listing the greater sage grouse as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act is warranted, but precluded, meaning there are higher priority species in need of the federal government’s resources.
“The Service encourages the state to continue to actively advocate for sage grouse conservation, and perhaps more importantly, healthy sagebrush ecosystems,” said FWS in their letter. “We recognize that the conservation of sage grouse will involve difficult choices in prioritizing management objectives for a variety of needs within Wyoming. While we do not advocate for elimination or preclusion of any activity, we do encourage the state and project proponents to consider all alternatives that minimizes or removes impacts to the sagebrush ecosystem. We offer our assistance in these efforts if desired.”
In summary of its letter, FWS said, “The Service believes the Greater Sage-grouse Core Area Protection provides an excellent model for meaningful conservation of sage grouse if fully supported and implemented. We believe that, when fully realized, this effort could ameliorate many threats to the greater sage grouse in Wyoming. We fully recognize and appreciate your commitment and financial obligation to this important conservation effort.”
Mead, who was in attendance at the Western Governors’ Association meeting in late June, said he planned to discuss sage grouse at that meeting.
“I plan to offer support to other western states interested in what we have done. I believe this is a way to show the federal government how states can lead when it comes to species management and do so in a very responsive and proactive way.”