The Latest: Rancher: Sage grouse cooperation broke distrust

AP News
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Posted: Sep 22, 2015 2:00 PM
The Latest: Rancher: Sage grouse cooperation broke distrust

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The latest on the decision not to list the greater sage grouse as threatened or endangered (all times local):

12 p.m.

A Nevada rancher says a more trustful relationship between Western states and Washington helped avoid federal protections for the greater sage grouse that many argued would threaten industry.

At Tuesday's announcement of the decision outside Denver, Duane Coombs says he inherited his father's distrust of the U.S. government but that cooperation between private landowners and federal officials to protect the bird has changed his mind.

He says his 11-year-old daughter grew up helping him tie markers on ranch fences to keep sage grouse from flying into them and getting killed.

The Obama administration, affected states and outside groups have committed more than $750 million to saving the sage grouse without Endangered Species Act protections. The bird's habitat spans 11 Western states.

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10:46 a.m.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says the plan to protect the greater sage grouse is the "largest, most complex land-conservation effort" in the United States.

Jewell on Tuesday officially announced the federal government's decision not to list the bird as endangered or threatened. She shared the stage with the governors of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge outside Denver.

Jewell says the decision stems from states, ranchers and the energy industry successfully working with the federal government to protect grouse habitat spanning 11 Western states.

She says that besides providing a brighter future for an "amazing, scrappy bird," the decision gives communities and landowners certainty about where development can proceed. She also says the plan will protect an entire landscape, benefiting other wildlife, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts.

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9:35 a.m.

A senior congressional Democrat says Republican criticism of the decision not to give federal protections to the greater sage grouse lacks credibility.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (gree-HAHL'-vuh) of Arizona says House Republicans attack President Barack Obama when his administration lists a species as endangered and attack him when it decides against a listing, comparing the rhetoric to a game of "Mad Libs."

The Interior Department said Tuesday that the bird doesn't need to be listed as threatened or endangered across its 11-state Western range.

Grijalva is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources. The panel's chairman, Republican Rob Bishop of Utah, says the announcement is intended to mask the fact that the Obama administration has imposed limits on development across the West.

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9:07 a.m.

Wildlife advocates have mixed reactions to the rejection of federal protections for greater sage grouse.

Groups including the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Audubon Society said Tuesday's announcement shows cooperation between government and private interest groups can preserve imperiled species.

But critics say loopholes in dozens of government land-use plans intended to preserve the bird's shrinking habitat would allow too much development.

Erik Molvar with WildEarth Guardians says federal officials were missing a chance to save the bird. He called it an "epic conservation failure."

Molvar's group challenged the government's failure to act on sage grouse in 2010 as its population declined. That resulted in a settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that forced Tuesday's decision on the bird's legal status.

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8:20 a.m.

The head of the House Committee on Natural Resources calls the decision not to seek federal protections for the greater sage grouse a cynical ploy.

The U.S. Interior Department said Tuesday that the bird does not need to be listed as threatened or endangered across its 11-state Western range. But Republican Rob Bishop of Utah says the announcement is intended to mask the fact that the Obama administration has imposed limits on development across the West.

He's referring to changes in government policies guiding lands controlled by the U.S. Forest Service and Interior's Bureau of Land Management.

The Independent Petroleum Association, meanwhile, says the land use plans will hurt the country's smaller oil and natural gas producers, which operate about 95 percent of its wells.

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7:30 a.m.

An aide to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says recent policy changes provide protections for the greater sage grouse on 67 million acres of federal lands. That includes 12 million acres where strict limits on oil and gas drilling will be enforced.

Sarah Greenberger made the comments after the U.S. Interior Department said Tuesday that the bird does not need to be listed as threatened or endangered across its 11-state Western range.

Greenberger says efforts made by the federal and state governments in recent years produced the largest land conservation effort in U.S. history.

The Obama administration says it has struck a balance to save the imperiled ground-dwelling birds from extinction without crippling the West's economy.

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7 a.m.

The U.S. Interior Department says the greater sage grouse does not need federal protections across its 11-state Western range after some limits were put on energy development and other activities.

Tuesday's announcement signals that the Obama administration believes it has struck a balance to save the widespread, ground-dwelling birds from extinction without crippling the West's economy.

It follows a costly conservation effort, and could help defuse a potential political liability for Democrats heading into the 2016 election.

Federal protections could have brought much more sweeping restrictions on oil and gas drilling, grazing and other human activities from California to the Dakotas.

Republicans have seized on the issue as supposed evidence of wildlife protection laws run amok.

Environmentalists who sued to force Tuesday's decision are certain to challenge it.