Due to the success of state and local conservation efforts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its decision not to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species.
The American Farm Bureau and Utah Farm Bureau are strong supporters of meaningful recovery efforts and count today’s decision as a testament to the great strides states and landowners can make when they work cooperatively to develop effective wildlife management plans.
“Conservation plans developed at the state and local levels provide the greatest opportunity for species success, and we believe today’s decision endorses that approach,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). “Farmers and ranchers last year called on the federal government to allow time for these plans to work, and now we’re seeing positive results and real success with the birds’ populations across the Western states. State, local and industry partners have accomplished in just a few years a level of success largely unseen through 42 years of federal Endangered Species Act implementation.”
“The investment and hard work by state and private interests has paid off. We are proud of the work farmers and ranchers in Utah have put in, and the results that have come forward from working with Utah State University and range biologists to set up local working groups that have been beneficial for livestock grazing, wildlife and the sage grouse,” said Leland Hogan, president of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation (UFBF). “Utah Farm Bureau has been a leader in addressing sage grouse habitat issues for as much as two decades, and will continue to be so in the future.”
“We have been involved in state and local working groups on the Parker Mountain and elsewhere, identifying priority areas for preserving the grouse,” Hogan continued. “The state of Utah deserves credit for investing millions of dollars in range improvements, including the Utah Department of Agriculture’s Grazing Improvement Program (GIP) and funding for the LeRay McCallister fund.”
While today’s announcement is a victory for conservation work and species recovery at the local level, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and USDA Forest Service also announced today their decision to move forward with land management plans which address sage grouse populations across the birds’ 184 million acre range. Farmers and ranchers are concerned that these new plans may threaten to further erode the multiple-use mandate charged to land management agencies by restricting existing and future rangeland management. The new plans add new land use restrictions which may affect the timing of range improvements, reduce livestock numbers, eliminate or reduce actively permitted grazing allotments, or impact the ability to renew future livestock permits.
“Continued active management of western rangelands through proper grazing management has and can continue to enhance sage grouse habitat and populations,” Stallman said. “These new plans send a mixed message by punishing livestock permittees who are already working to conserve species and resources.”
“As we have witnessed dramatic reductions in livestock grazing across the Utah landscape by the Forest Service and BLM, we have seen an increase in catastrophic wildfires and monocultures like cheatgrass and pinion-juniper, which are detrimental to the health of the sage grouse,” Hogan said. “Predator control and healthy rangelands are good for sage grouse, wildlife, and ranching families.”