The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 15 - 12/9/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Environmental Group Will Petition for Sage Grouse Listing within a year
The American Lands Alliance (ALA), an environmental organization based in Portland, Oregon, will petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have the sage grouse listed within one year as a threatened and endangered species . Listing of the sage grouse would have significant impacts on grazing and oil and gas development in Sublette County and throughout the West.
In an interview Tuesday, Mark Salvo, the "Grasslands Advocate" for the American Lands Alliance, said his organization is currently writing a "status review" on the sage grouse population and habitat across the entire West. Once the status review is written, Mr. Salvo says the ALA will petition the Fish and Wildlife Service to have the grouse listed. "This bird is biologically and legally justified to be listed as a threatened species," he says.
Mr. Salvo says the ALA is waiting for additional information on sage grouse from various state agencies that is needed needs to complete the status review. The ALA will submit the petition "definitely within the next year and probably within the next six to eight months," says Mr. Salvo.
Some have accused Mr. Salvo's organization as using the sage grouse as a tool to force livestock grazing off the public lands. "Grazing is obviously a factor in sage grouse decline and no one contests that," says Mr. Salvo. He disputes, however, that the goal is to eliminate grazing, however. "It's not that we hate grazing," he continues, "but we need to ask the hard questions about grazing, off-road vehicle use, ag conversion, and other uses concerning how we're using this habitat to date. We're not doing a good job."
Mr. Salvo argues that sage grouse is the "perfect indicator species" for the sagebrush steppe. "Sage grouse need a vast expanse of good habitat to thrive," he says, describing the sage grouse as an "ambassador" for 15-20 other species which depend on healthy sagebrush habitat for survival.
According to Pat Deibert, the biologist with the USFWS in Cheyenne who would evaluate any petition to list sage grouse, the process would take a minimum of two years to complete.
The ALA has put up a website on sage grouse which it hopes to use to document its efforts. The web address is www.sagegrouse.org.
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