FWS to analyze sage grouse regardless of funding

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to know what’s already being done to save the sage grouse. 

In a month, the agency is expected to start analyzing whether the little bird that’s rustled big feathers in Congress still warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. 


Though the fiscal 2015 omnibus appropriations bill contains a rider that prevents the agency from using federal funding to publishing a proposed listing rule for the greater sage grouse and its smaller cousin, the gunnison sage grouse, the Fish and Wildlife Service said its still obligated to determine whether the species should be protected. 

The rider aims to stop restrictions that would be put on oil-and-gas drillers and developers in 11 western states if the chicken-sized bird were to be listed as an endangered species. 

Sage grouse live on large, un-fragmented tracts of sagebrush, but energy development and agriculture have disrupted their habitats. 

Conservationists, tribes and state and federal agencies are being asked to submit data on the bird’s population and efforts to protect its habitat by Jan. 15. 

“A tremendous amount of effective conservation work to benefit the species has been accomplished by state and federal agencies, groups and individuals,” Noreen Walsh, regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region, said in a statement. “But we will only be able consider it in our analysis if that data is submitted to us.”

A decision is due by Sept. 30, 2015.