Lawsuit Filed to Secure Endangered Status for Gunnison Sage Grouse

January 21, 2015

Sage Grouse
Last November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the Gunnison sage-grouse as “threatened”. On January 20, 2015, Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the USFWS arguing for endangered status for the species and protections that come with it. These groups argue that the best available scientific evidence demonstrates that the Gunnison sage-grouse is “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” and must be listed as endangered species.

The complaint points out that the USFWS violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) by failing to consider best available science and give public a notice and opportunity to comment on its decision to list the species as threatened. The groups are asking the court to remand the final rule (listing the bird as threatened) to USFWS for “an adequate finding that complies with all requirements of the ESA and the APA” in the meantime retaining the threatened listing in place.

Gunnison sage-grouse population is about 5,000 found only in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The species are related to the Greater sage-grouse that is at the center of a broader debate that involves 11 western states.

View the entire complaint here

Dispute Over Utah’s Oil Shale Flowers Heads Back to Court | The Salt Lake Tribune

January 3, 2015

By Brian Maffly

Penstemon 1“The 31-year fight over Utah’s beardtongue, rare wildflowers that grow only near the Uinta Basin’s oil shale outcrops, is far from over despite a new conservation plan that state officials say ensures the plants survival should oil shale mining take off.

This week, the Utah Native Plant Society and other conservation groups formally accused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of ignoring science and caving to political pressure from oil and gas interests when it withdrew a proposed listing for Graham’s and White River beardtongue, also known as penstemon, under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).”

Read full story | The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah Wildlife Officials, Bishop Bemoan Federal Action on Gunnison Sage Grouse | Deseret News

November 12, 2014

“A decision Wednesday to list the Gunnison sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act will ultimately hurt the bird more than it will help it, undercutting local efforts to protect the species and instilling tedious layers of government bureaucracy to overcome.

That sentiment, voiced by Utah wildlife officials and echoed by members of the state’s congressional delegation, came in swift reaction to the announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the bird is receiving a designation as “threatened” under the federal act.”

Read full story | Deseret News

Op-ed: Penstemon Agreement Saves More Flowers than ESA Would | The Salt Lake Tribune

By Mike McKee, Mark Raymond, and Darlene Burns

July 11, 2014

“When faced with the prospect of yet another endangered species listing in the Uintah Basin, many would expect that as elected officials tasked with protecting our local community we would take off the proverbial gloves and begin to fight. In the case of the Graham’s beardtongue and White River beardtongue (penstemon species) in Eastern Utah, we along with other stakeholders met this challenge with a proposed conservation agreement that goes above and beyond the protections afforded these flowering plants under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Some critics claim that this conservation plan — negotiated between local, state and federal agencies ­— is voluntary and so does not provide “real” protection for these plants. Uintah County wants to be clear that this is incorrect. The agreement is enforceable by law.”

Read full story | The Salt Lake Tribune