Lawmakers seek to avoid grouse listing

Kelly Sloan
Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

Federal lawmakers from Colorado and three other Western states have introduced legislation that would prevent a listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act for 10 years while requiring states to develop their own grouse conservation plans.

U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, both Republicans from Colorado, joined with U.S. Reps. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Steve Daines, R-Mont., as well as U.S Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., in introducing the Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the sage grouse as “eligible, but precluded” from a listing as an endangered species and has until November to make a decision regarding a listing. Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has been developing a resource management plan intended to prevent a listing that has has come under fire from local governments, residents and industry groups in Western Colorado as too restrictive. 

At the urging of Western Slope groups. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed John Swarthout to lead a state-based plan to protect sage grouse as well as the regional economy.

Tipton said the proposed federal legislation promotes local control as well as the use of what he termed “real science.”

“The BLM is trying to install a one-size-fits-all policy over 11 states,” Tipton said. “The geography does not lend itself to such an approach.”

He said federal agencies ignore state, local and private initiatives to protect the bird without sacrificing economic activities.

Tipton leveled one of his greatest criticisms in complaining about what he said is a lack of sound science behind the federal action. “They’re not even using peer-reviewed science, saying that the data are proprietary” Tipton said. “When you have something that is going to have that large of an impact on families and small businesses, you ought to be able to have an opportunity to have peer and public review of the data.”

“This issue is an example of government policy increasing encroachment on private property rights,” Tipton added. “We are pushing back against that with this bill.”