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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it would reopen consideration of whether to list the bi-state sage-grouse as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. disappearance.
“Perhaps the third time will be the charm to get this segment of the population the protection they so clearly deserve,” said Laura Cunningham, California director of the Western Watersheds Project. “None of the scientific data shows that bi-state birds have benefited from the Service’s dithering.”
The announcement was spurred by a May 2022 court order that the Service had illegally withdrawn its proposal to list the bird as threatened and forced it to reconsider protecting the species. It was the second time the agency’s refusal to protect the bird had been overturned by the courts.
“This is a great opportunity to include the most recent scientific data on the bi-state sage-grouse, which is having a difficult year with the epic snowfalls in its habitat,” said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist at the Center. for Biological Diversity. “These beautiful dancing birds need help to stop sliding towards extinction. The Service’s reopening of its decision-making process is a step in the right direction.
The bistate sage-grouse lives in a small area along the California-Nevada border in the eastern Sierra Nevada, on land originally inhabited by the Washoe and Paiute peoples. The birds are genetically isolated from other sage-grouse populations elsewhere in the West.
There are only about 3,300 birds left – far below the 5,000 considered the minimum for population viability. The sage-grouse is threatened by climate change and habitat loss, livestock grazing, and predation by crows. A January 2020 study by the U.S. Geological Survey determined that while some central populations of bistate sage-grouse increase, populations in the northern and southern extremities are at high risk of disappearing altogether.
The birds were originally proposed for listing as threatened in 2013, but the Fish and Wildlife Service dropped the proposal in 2015. In 2018, a federal court found the Service wrongfully denied species law protection. endangered bi-state sage grouse and demanded the agency to reassess the bird’s status. The bird was again proposed for protection, but in March 2020 the Trump administration withdrew the proposal.
“The political game surrounding the listing status of the bi-state sage-grouse is unfortunately not unique to this species at risk,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “We have seen far too many species stuck in extinction limbo for years before receiving protections that are obviously warranted based on the best available science. We are cautiously optimistic that the Service will now grant federal protections. to the bi-state sage grouse so he can finally get on the road to recovery.
Desert Survivors, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians successfully challenged this removal. In 2022, a judge reinstated the original proposal to list the birds as threatened and ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a new final listing decision.
The announcement launches a 60-day comment period.
Greater sage grouse population down 80% since 1965
Conservation groups call for more protections for sage-grouse