In a decision with potentially sweeping implications for Utah and other western states, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee voted yesterday to delay a listing decision for greater sage grouse for at least 10 years, allowing Utah’s management plan to continue to demonstrate adequate conservation for the species.
The U.S. House committee concurred with a recent Army report suggesting that efforts to encumber the greater sage grouse habitat under the federal Endangered Species Act could hurt training operations at numerous U.S. military facilities throughout the West.
The state of Utah has also argued to federal officials that additional regulation regarding the species potentially interferes with the interests of ranchers, energy producers and miners, hampers tourism and stymies needed economic development, particularly in the southern regions of the state. Millions of acres of Utah lands could be blocked from development or use by a decision to place the bird on the endangered list.
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes said he’s “elated” with the decision, as should be all Utahns, crediting Utah’s congressional delegation, particularly Rep. Rob Bishop, who serves on that House committee and his staff, as well as Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, as being instrumental in the outcome.
“We have been up against a deadline for potential listing and this gives us time to continue to do what Utah and other western states are doing very well, which is to improve the habitat for the greater sage grouse,” Hughes said.
Utah Rep. Michael Noel, who represents multiple counties in southern Utah that would be affected by the greater sage grouse listing, said he was thrilled to hear of the action taken by the House Armed Services Committee. He thanked the Utah House and Senate leadership, Gov. Gary Herbert and his colleagues for their foresight in funding the state’s fight against the listing in congress.
“Utah is leading out in the western states on this issue and has made the health of the bird a priority,” Noel said. “As a result of the millions of dollars applied toward the species, Utah’s greater sage grouse populations are increasing in numbers while habitat is being improved for the long term survival of the species.
“Our Division of Wildlife Resources Director Greg Sheehan and our Division of Natural Resources Director Mike Styler, with support from the Utah Legislature, have created a scientifically based plan build on decades of research and on the ground habitat restoration work,” Noel said.