After Years Of Fighting For Protection, Sage Grouse Gets A Win

Judge Finds Wildlife Service Didn't Have Reasons To Deny Birds' Protection

May 18, 2018 - 2:29 pm

CARSON CITY, NV (KXNT) - Environmental groups for a number of years have fought to get the bi-state sage grouse classified as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. This week, a judge found the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not have sufficient reason for denying the birds protection. 

Environmental groups are flying high, celebrating a court decision this week which they hope puts the bi-state sage grouse one step closer to protection. Groups first petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the bi-state sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act back in 2005. The agency in 2015 denied the bird protection. But a district court judge in California this week found Fish and Wildlife hadn't offered enough basis for that decision. Ilene Anderson with the Center for Biological Diversity said threats to the bird should have been clear all along.

"There isn't a lot of genetic mixing anymore; in some populations, there are simply not enough birds left in them to be able to successfully reproduce over time. And so, we're really worried about this who population going extinct," said Anderson.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the groups that sued the agency will now have through next week to propose a timeline to the court to decide how to remedy the issue.

Anderson also said the bi-state sage grouse habitat along the California-Nevada border has become fragmented through urban development and livestock grazing. She says classifying the bird as threatened or endangered would make it possible to slow habitat loss.

"Trying to find that balance between keeping habitat around for these very imperiled species, while also allowing prudent ranching to occur on these lands, I think that there is a 'sweet spot' there that can have both happen," Anderson said.

Anderson said protecting the bird requires protecting its unique habitat, which she said would be good for the whole Mono Basin ecosystem.