The Trump administration has released plans to drastically reduce habitat protections in Western states for the sage grouse — a move that would pave the way for oil exploration.
Available for interviews on this news is John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and an expert on conservation biology who has written about federal policies’ impact on bird populations — including the sage grouse.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said its decision three years ago not to list sage-grouse as endangered was made based on the best available science.
"That evidence led to the designation 10 million acres of habitat in Sagebrush Focal Areas that were deemed to be crucial to the species’ survival, and to keeping it from becoming endangered. It also designated no surface occupancy buffers near leks that are critical zones of reproduction.
“Today’s announcement is not based on any new science that changes the picture of what biologists regard as absolutely necessary to keep sage-grouse off the Endangered Species list. The flexibility to roll back science-based protections for sage-grouse habitats and leks is the flexibility to set back the sage-grouse population.
“The beauty of the 2015 Sage-Grouse Plans were their comprehensive, landscape-scale strategy. The proposed revisions break that strategy up into bits, rendering individual sage-grouse breeding areas vulnerable to the influence of short-term gain for development. “The 2015 Sage-Grouse Plans were a hard-earned compromise after a decade of cooperative conservation work and unprecedented coalitions among state and federal agencies, conservationists, energy companies, and private ranchers. The Department of Interior is disregarding its own best available science at the peril of reopening a contentious debate that will serve nobody’s best interests.”