Greater sage grouse decision expected Tuesday | CraigDailyPress.com

Greater sage grouse decision expected Tuesday

The U.S. Department of Interior is expected to announce Tuesday morning whether or not the greater sage grouse has been deemed worthy of listing under the Endangered Species Act following five years of collaborative conservation efforts to protect the bird. The decision has been much anticipated since a 2011 settlement that gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until Sept. 30 to re-evaluate the status of the sage grouse, found to be "warranted but precluded" from listing in a 2010 decision.

— U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is expected to announce Tuesday whether or not the greater sage grouse should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The decision is the culmination of five years of unprecedented conservation efforts initiated by numerous government, nonprofit and trade organizations across 11 western states.

Gov. John Hickenlooper will join nine federal officials — including Jewell, Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe and Director of Bureau of Land Management Neil Kornze — as well as three other governors at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Commerce City for the announcement.

Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe speculates that the decision will be to not list the bird.

"We're believing that's going to be what Secretary Jewell is going to announce tomorrow but until it comes out, it's hard to jump up and down and wave pom-poms," Grobe said. "The issues are still going to arise that they're going to accept the Colorado BLM plan, which is pretty rough on us… (and) is going to really handcuff us in terms of energy development."

Colorado officials are still awaiting release of the BLM's Northwest Colorado Greater Sage-Grouse Environmental Impact Statement, one of 14 plans created throughout the 11 states, the final draft of which was released May 28. It is unknown whether Tuesday's announcement will include Jewell signing the final plans into effect.

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"At this point, it's not a real win yet because of the BLM plan," Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid said. "We're still going to have to live with rules that are so strict… it's just going to harm Moffat County's economy."

A major caveat to the decision expected Tuesday is if the Fish and Wildlife Service does in fact decide the bird should be listed, legislation passed by Congress would prevent the agency from being able to enact the listing.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service is allowed to move forward in making a decision, but if a 'warranted' decision is reached, they would not be able to move forward with implementing it," Interior Press Secretary Emily Beyer said in an email Monday.

Still, the decision will be a major indicator of the effectiveness of conservation efforts enacted over the last five years.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.

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