Sage grouse unlikely to receive protection under ESA

A panel of biologists and managers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended against listing the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. FWS Director Steve Williams will make a final decision by Dec. 29, but observers say he’s likely to follow the panel’s advice. The recommendation is seen as a victory for oil and gas companies, ranchers, and farmers in the U.S. West, whose activities would be curtailed by habitat protections if the grouse were listed. Enviros who have pushed for the listing will not be pleased to read in a New York Times article that a Bush administration political appointee at the Interior Department (with, as it happens, no background in wildlife biology and a strong record of pushing for property rights) was heavily involved in crafting an internal review of scientific knowledge of the grouse and its territory that was used in formulating the recommendation. The appointee, Julie MacDonald, harshly critiqued many biologists’ conclusions, deleted sections she found unappealing, and sought to include industry comments.