Bush admin ignored best science when considering sage grouse species protections
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must reconsider its decision not to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, a federal judge ruled this week. The judge said that the FWS ignored the best available science on the species when deciding whether to list it in 2005; he also expressed doubts about the efficacy of the agency’s entire decision-making process. The sage grouse decision, he said, was also heavily and improperly influenced by Julie MacDonald, a former political appointee who resigned last May. “Her tactics included everything from editing scientific conclusions to intimidating [FWS] staffers,” the judge wrote. “Her extensive involvement in the sage grouse listing decision process taints the … decision and requires a reconsideration without her involvement.” The ruling is a victory for species advocates who have said that all kinds of species and habitat decisions should be reconsidered due to MacDonald’s role, not just the seven cases the FWS has said are the only ones in need of review. If ultimately listed under the ESA, the bird’s status could slow development, impact grazing rules, and curb rampant oil and gas drilling in parts of the U.S. West.