by Deanna Darr
The answer: kind of.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced on Friday, March 5, that while the declining sage grouse population in the West deserves protection, other species need it more. Therefore, sage grouse will be considered a candidate species for possible listing in the future.
The candidate classification means that state and federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management will have to step up efforts to protect the species, but landowners and the public won’t face the strict regulations demanded by the Endangered Species List.
“The sage grouse’s decline reflects the extent to which open land in the West has been developed in the last century,” Salazar said in a written press release. “This development has provided important benefits, but we must find common-sense ways of protecting, restoring and reconnecting the Western lands that are most important to the species’ survival while responsibly developing much-needed energy resources. Voluntary conservation agreements, federal financial and technical assistance and other partnership incentives can play a key role in this effort.”
In Idaho, as well as many other Western states, that increased oversight means more consideration of the multitude of energy projects (green and traditional) proposed for both private and public land.
Salazar pointed to partnerships with private landowners, including offering both financial and technical help for those willing to do something to help sage grouse. Salazar even pointed to a recently finalized agreement in Southwestern Idaho in which a landowner agreed to work in cooperation with conservation efforts across roughly 500,000 acres.
For it’s part, the BLM has pledged to provide better guidance for both evaluating proposed projects and conservation efforts. BLM officials will work with state Fish and Game Department officials to coordinate efforts, as well as to develop a regional habitat map to look at key population centers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service will review the status of sage grouse each year to determine if listing is necessary.