Western sage grouse will not be protected under ESA

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the sage grouse, a large game bird with the unlucky habit of residing on top of large natural-gas deposits, will not be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Never mind that the species’ numbers have declined from millions to as few as 142,000. Agency spokesfolks emphasized that state and private conservation efforts are still encouraged. Responded Mark Salvo of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign, “Local conservation plans are mostly window dressing and are insufficient to save the grouse.” Business groups and conservative Western lawmakers exulted at the decision — a listing under the ESA would have placed severe restrictions on the use of land slated by the Bush administration for vigorous oil and gas development.