Groups challenge info used to justify greater sage-grouse ESA decisions

Groups challenge info used to justify greater sage-grouse ESA decisions

Coalition of Western counties and organizations support local conservation measures to protect Greater sage-grouse population

The Public Lands Council, as part of a coalition of western counties and ranching, mining, and energy associations, has filed three Data Quality Act challenges to the information that the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey are using to make Endangered Species Act listing decisions for the greater sage-grouse.

Related: USDA partnership improving sage-grouse habitat, grazing lands

Coalition of Western counties and organizations support local conservation measures to protect Greater sage-grouse population (USDA photo)

The coalition says the agencies are using this information to justify "top-down restrictive measures" that they say could damage state and local conservation efforts. The coalition supports these regional conservation efforts as an appropriate way to support sage-grouse populations.

Brenda Richards, PLC president, said the reports used to make ESA decisions do not address specific cause and effect threats to the greater sage-grouse.

"The reports push a one-sided, anti-grazing agenda by ignoring a large body of scientific literature," Richards said in a PLC statement. "The states and private landowners have invested millions of dollars and a considerable amount of time developing management plans, improving habitat, and implementing conservation measures."

Related: Sage-grouse conservation projects expanding with rancher help

Richards said the agencies are using "faulty logic" to justify a top-down approach to sage grouse management. "Many studies show misguided federal management will harm the sage grouse as well as the 11 states it inhabits," she said.

The legal and scientific team challenging the information is headed by attorney Kent Holsinger of Holsinger Law, LLC.

"It's unacceptable that we've had to resort to multiple lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act and other maneuvers to obtain basic scientific information that should have already been provided to the public," Holsinger said. "By carefully analyzing that data, the coalition found extensive flaws in the agencies' science."

Related: House, Senate Bills Request Regional Management of Sage Grouse

Coalition members include: Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, and Rio Blanco counties in Colorado; Carter, Fallon, Fergus, McCone, Musselshell, Phillips, Prairie, Toole, Richland, and Yellowstone counties in Montana; Elko and Eureka counties in Nevada; Uintah County in Utah; American Exploration & Mining Association; Colorado Mining Association; Colorado Wool Growers Association; Independent Petroleum Association of America; International Association of Drilling Contractors; Montana Association of Oil, Gas & Coal Counties; Montana Petroleum Association; Nevada Mining Association; Petroleum Association of Wyoming; Public Lands Council; Utah Multiple Use Coalition; and Western Energy Alliance.

See the full Data Quality Act challenges and an Executive Summary.

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