Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): ranching

New federal framework provides path forward for landowners and sage-grouse

Greater Sage-Grouse Mitigation FrameworkThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces a difficult decision on the listing of the greater sage-grouse. On the one hand, populations are in steady decline across the range and the Service has already indicated that the bird’s condition will likely warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. On the other hand, a listing would pit the Service against powerful economic interests – including energy and agriculture – and against most of the political apparatus of the 11 Western states that harbor the imperiled bird.

But the Service just did itself and all sage-grouse stakeholders a big favor.

Earlier this month, the Service released the Greater Sage-Grouse Range-Wide Mitigation Framework – a guidance document intended to help states and private sector interests design solutions for the bird that, if implemented quickly and effectively, would be taken into account when the Service makes its final listing determination in 2016.

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We don’t have to pit wildlife against the economy

Greater sage grouse. Photo credit:  Steven Nehl

Greater sage grouse. Photo credit: Steven Nehl

This post was co-written by Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and executive director of Partners for Western Conservation.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: A rancher, an environmentalist, and an oil company exec walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and asks, “Is this a joke?”

On the surface we may seem like an odd group, but ranchers, energy companies and environmentalists are finding each other willing partners in solving big conservation problems.

Colorado is one of 11 Western states where an iconic rangeland bird, the greater sage grouse, nests in high desert topography that’s also perfect ground for cattle ranching. And in recent years, Colorado’s booming oil and gas industry has encroached on the bird’s habitat.

That puts the bird’s future on a collision course with the state’s two largest economic drivers: agriculture and energy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces a 2015 deadline to decide if the greater sage grouse should be protected by an Endangered Species Act listing. Listing could severely crimp both energy production and ranching across a vast territory.

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