Law­suit brew­ing in fight over game bird in US Sierra Ne­vada

Iran Daily - - Cultural Heritage & Environmen­t -

Con­ser­va­tion­ists are headed back to court to try to force the US Pres­i­dent Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to pro­tect a rare game bird along the Cal­i­for­nia-ne­vada bor­der as the govern­ment keeps chang­ing its mind about whether to list the cousin of the greater sage grouse as threat­ened or en­dan­gered.

Three groups have filed for­mal no­tice of their in­tent to sue af­ter the Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice re­versed course in March and aban­doned its 2018 pro­posal to list the bi-state grouse un­der the En­dan­gered Species Act, AP re­ported.

The hen-sized bird is sim­i­lar but sep­a­rate from the greater sage grouse, which lives in a dozen Western US states and is at the cen­ter of a dis­pute over the govern­ment’s ef­forts to roll back pro­tec­tions adopted un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

The ser­vice es­ti­mates the bi-state grouse pop­u­la­tion is half what it was 150 years ago along the east­ern front of the Sierra Ne­vada. Any­where from 330 to 3,305 are be­lieved to re­main across 7,000 square miles (18,129 square kilo­me­ters) of high desert sage­brush stretch­ing from Car­son City to Yosemite Na­tional Park.

Threats to the bird in­clude ur­ban­iza­tion, live­stock graz­ing and wild­fires.

The Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice re­jected list­ing pe­ti­tions in 2001 and 2005. It for­mally pro­posed threat­ened sta­tus for the first time in 2013 but aban­doned that pro­posal two years later.

In 2018, a US judge in San Fran­cisco found the agency had il­le­gally de­nied pro­tec­tion to the bis­tate grouse and or­dered it to re-eval­u­ate the bird’s sta­tus.

The bird was again pro­posed for pro­tec­tion, but in March the ad­min­is­tra­tion with­drew that pro­posal. The ser­vice said its lat­est re­view in­di­cates the pop­u­la­tion has im­proved, thanks in large part to vol­un­tary pro­tec­tion mea­sures adopted by state agen­cies, lo­cal ranch­ers and other in­ter­ested third par­ties.

Con­ser­va­tion­ists say vol­un­tary ef­forts fall short of what’s nec­es­sary to com­ply with the law.

“We’ve watched for more than a decade as vol­un­tary mea­sures failed to do enough to help these birds sur­vive,” said Ileene An­der­son, a senior sci­en­tist at the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity, which filed the no­tice of in­tent to sue last week with Wildearth Guardians and the Western Wa­ter­sheds Project.

“With­out the le­gal pro­tec­tion of the En­dan­gered Species Act, mul­ti­ple threats will just keep push­ing these unique grouse to­ward extinction,” she said.

The East­ern Sierra Land Trust based in Bishop, Cal­i­for­nia, is among those that dis­agree.

The coali­tion of ranch­ers, pri­vate landown­ers, tribal land man­agers and oth­ers has been ac­tive in lo­cal part­ner­ships work­ing to im­prove grouse habi­tat. It said the ser­vice’s March de­ci­sion was a tes­ta­ment to their suc­cess.

“In the case of the bis­tate sage-grouse, our uniquely lo­cal and col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach is work­ing with­out the need for the En­dan­gered Species Act,” the trust said.

The fed­eral agency said in March it still be­lieves the pop­u­la­tion is dis­tinct from the greater sage grouse — liv­ing in six pop­u­la­tion sub­groups on the south­west edge of the over­all species. But it no longer be­lieves there’s any im­me­di­ate threat to the sur­vival of the sub­groups.

AP

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