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Greater sage grouse not to be listed as endangered species, critics say decision is about land

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Posted at 12:03 PM, Sep 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-22 18:07:26-04

The greater sage grouse will not be placed on the endangered species list because officials said it no longer faces the risk of extinction.

"Because of an unprecedented effort by dozens of partners across 11 western states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the greater sage grouse does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act," Sally Jewell said, U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Tuesday’s announcement is now facing a lot of heat.

Some are cheering that the sage grouse species is growing, however, others are saying this decision to not place the animal on a protected list only allows the federal government to control the land and its habitat.

The land includes parts of 11 western states.

The Department of Interior says this collaborative, science-based greater sage grouse strategy is the largest land conservation effort in U.S. history.

Secretary Sally Jewell made the announcement earlier Tuesday on Twitter with a video.

It explains why the sage grouse decision is historic and sets the groundwork for a 21st-century approach to conservation.

The FWS reached this determination after evaluating the bird`s population status along with the collective efforts by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service, state agencies, private landowners and other partners to conserve its habitat.

However, Congressman Bishop said this is just a strategy the federal government is using to occupy all of that land.

"I'm not fooled by the announcement; to me it's extremely cynical,” he said. “If they listed the sage grouse, then states could take it to court and get stake claims but now the federal government will have control over the land. This is going in the back door. Changing all the management plans under the BLM means the state plans are all moot. Utah had a good plan. Had the bird been kept on the endangered species list, the states could have used their own plans."

Gov. Gary R. Herbert sent Fox 13 this statement on the greater sage grouse decision:

“I am deeply concerned with the decisions of the Departments of Interior and Agriculture which constitute a significant overreach by the federal government on this issue.  The state of Utah has implemented a successful sage grouse conservation plan that has been rejected by the federal government, jeopardizing conservation of the species and reasonable economic growth in Utah.

“Today’s actions constitute the equivalent of a listing decision outside the normal process and fail to support an appropriate balance between conservation and other public uses of the land. The state is not satisfied with the Records of Decision on land use plan amendments as issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Their one-size-fits-all approach does not reflect the tremendous diversity in greater sage grouse habitats across the West. These federal land use plan amendments are unnecessarily restrictive in nature and devalue Utah’s management plan and the conservation commitments from private landowners.

“I have always believed that, as a state, Utah is better positioned to manage our sage grouse population than the federal government. Utah has in fact adopted a strong conservation plan designed to protect, enhance and restore sage grouse habitats throughout the state. This effort by Utah has resulted in the restoration of more than 500,000 acres of sage grouse habitat and a significant growth in sage grouse populations. We will continue to work with the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to accept the State of Utah’s conservation plan. We will also pursue legislative and potential judicial relief to protect the state’s interests and ensure conservation of the species."