Sage grouse flap: Lawsuits not the way, group says

Biz-backed partnership praises feds for not listing bird

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PHOENIX – Following the federal government’s final decision not to list the Greater Sage-grouse as an endangered species, the Chair of the Partnership for the West grassroots alliance issued this challenge to activist groups seeking the listing: Start spending money on sage-grouse conservation efforts, rather than on lawyers and lawsuits.

“We challenge those activist groups that pushed this petition to put their money where their mouth is and start funding actual conservation efforts instead of funding lawyers and lawsuits,” said Diane Hoppe, chair of the partnership and a Colorado state representative. “Federal agencies, state agencies, counties, municipalities, conservation groups and many private sector stakeholders are together spending tens of millions of dollars to help conserve sage-grouse and its habitat. What are some of these so-called environmental groups bringing to the conservation table? Little beyond a never-ending stream of destructive and costly lawsuits.”

“These lawsuits end up hurting wildlife because they drown wildlife biologists and conservation officials in paperwork, drain dollars away from actual conservation efforts, and scare folks away from the conservation table,” Hoppe added. “It’s time these activists chose conservation rather than conflict.”

Hoppe praised the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Interior Department for its decision not the list the grouse. “This decision is a victory of science over politics,” she said. “The field biologists did their work and came to a science-based conclusion that the bird was not on the verge of extinction. Now it’s up to all of us to work together in the West to ensure that this bird does not get into serious trouble in the future.”

Hoppe also praised several Members of Congress, especially U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chair Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Reps. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) and Jim Matheson (D-UT), for helping to lead the effort to convince the federal government that state and local stakeholders were in the best position to lead sage-grouse conservation efforts.

Hoppe added: “This is an especially big win for Western landowners and farmers and ranchers. The overwhelming majority of landowners are more than willing to pitch in and help conserve this species on their land, but they rightfully fear standing in front of the loaded and cocked double-barreled shotgun that is the flawed Endangered Species Act.

“It’s time to update and modernize this law so that local folks who live on the land are given incentives to protect species, rather than encouraged to `shoot, shovel and shut up’ when a species wanders across their land,“ Hoppe said.

Jim Sims, executive vice president of the Partnership, said: “It is my hope that those who are truly interested in seeing this species survive and flourish will come to the table and help hammer out common sense conservation efforts.”

“The sad news is that those pushed this listing petition forced the wasteful spending of millions of taxpayers’ dollars at the federal and state levels that could otherwise have been spent helping sage-grouse and preserving their habitat.”

“The good news is that there are many public interest groups who truly care about the future of this species and who are already engaged in constructive efforts to enhance conservation efforts at the local level. We applaud their efforts and we look forward to working with them,” Sims said.

About The Partnership
The Partnership for the West (www.partnershipforthewest.org) is a broad-based alliance linking industries and interests in common cause for policies that support a clean environment and a healthy, growing economy. Its membership includes more than 500 companies, associations, coalitions and organizations who collectively employ or represent more than one million of people across America in the following sectors: farm/ranching, coal, timber/wood products, small businesses, utilities, hard rock mining, oil & gas, construction, manufacturing, property rights advocates, education proponents, recreational access advocates, county government advocates, local, state and federal elected officials, grassroots advocates and others.