Interior Secretary Visits Colorado as Feds Mull Sage Grouse Listing

January 22, 2014
TIPTON:  “These listings would kill jobs, devastate communities, and disrupt effective species preservation efforts currently underway”

TIPTON: “These listings would kill jobs, devastate communities, and disrupt effective species preservation efforts currently underway”

WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and other key state and federal officials toured Northwest Colorado Tuesday to view firsthand how ranchers are successfully protecting the sage grouse without government interference.

Officials said they were impressed by the stewardship of Ray Owens on the Bord Gulch Ranch and his private efforts to conserve the bird on the 16,000-acre spread.

However, if federal officials decide to designate the bird as either threatened or endangered, nearly two million acres in Colorado including 75 percent of Moffat County would be designated as the bird’s habitat and subjected to new regulations that would restrict ranching, farming energy development, and possibly recreation.

“Ray Owens is a model of the 21st century western rancher with his outstanding stewardship of this working landscape,” Jewell said in a statement after the visit.

“He represents the spirit of partnership that can be replicated across the West as we develop landscape-level strategies to lessen the threats to the sage grouse and conserve its habitat,” Jewell said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe also participated in the tour and in press interviews signaled that the agency was leaning away from an endangered listing, but still considering a “threatened” status that also carries strict land use rules.

“Endangered is always a possibility,” Ashe told the Craig Daily Press. “The greater sage grouse is still in relatively good shape, so it would seem like an endangered determination absent some major catastrophe is probably not where we would head.”

Jewell was invited by several officials to visit the Western Slope and review grouse protection efforts at least once before the government makes a final decision in September.

Colorado Republican Rep. Scott Tipton has repeatedly urged Jewell to visit, but it appeared that she and other key Obama administration officials came as a reluctant guest of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Hickenlooper told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that Jewell was advised by some staff members that she would be unfairly criticized by Coloradoans if she visited the state.

“We should respect her when she’s out here and appreciate her because she’s taking a lot of risk,” Hickenlooper said. “She said, ‘I want to see with my own eyes. I want to learn.’”

Hickenlooper and Jewell held a meeting after the tour with local officials and dozens of residents, but Jewell’s office barred the press from attending what was billed as a public event.

Tipton said in a statement that he was hopeful Jewell would use what she learned during the visit to determine that local and state efforts already underway to protect the grouse have been successful without the federal “one-size-fits-all” approach.

“The success of the efforts underway to preserve the sage grouse stems from locally-tailored plans that take into account the unique topography and ecology of the region in order to best preserve the species that call it home,” Tipton said.

“These listings would kill jobs, devastate communities, and disrupt effective species preservation efforts currently underway,” Tipton said.

“They won’t, however, more effectively preserve the grouse,” Tipton said.

The Western Energy Alliance has questioned the science on which the federal government is relying to designate the species as endangered or threatened, and also opposes sweeping federal conservation rules that would apply to ten states without regard for unique land characteristics.

Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for the alliance, said blanket federal policies do not take in consideration the variations in habitat or needs of local communities.

Additionally, she said that oil and natural gas companies already operate under regulations to protect species and have also implemented voluntary measures.

“The (Interior Department) is planning restrictions on economic activity based on information that doesn’t meet rudimentary scientific standards,” Sgamma said.

“On the other hand, state alternatives are tailored to on-the-ground conditions while encouraging local efforts and balancing the needs of communities,” Sgamma added.

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

4 Responses to Interior Secretary Visits Colorado as Feds Mull Sage Grouse Listing

  1. Bob Terry
    January 22, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Yeah the old sage grouse …like the snail darter minnow…which has shut down most of California agriculture. And lets spend money bringing in the enviro Sally jewel and the entourage …at taxpayer expense…So I guess ranchers can’t herd or pasture cattle…Coal or energy…screw that..Sounds like a lot of double speak..Liberal politics at is best …Hey Maggie Fox is out of a job, she can become the new Sage Grouse Queen… Conservation is good..but when you throw out logic, data and go on what you think should happen …This Government screws up more produces less at an I don’t give a damn cost

  2. Bob Terry
    January 22, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Also how can she Jewell’s office bar the press or anyone else…is this a secret that we can’t find out.. Public servant??? does that ring a bell ? Tax payer dollars paying for this crap? oh yeah its just us the taxpayer why in the flying F do we need to know …Interior Secretary…EPA there’s a good budget cut as well

  3. Ken Wergin
    January 22, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Audrey Hudson, I did not go on the tour, but I did attend the post meeting. I attended as a concerned and active citizen. Of course in my view the “sunshine law” prevailed.
    I found the meeting to be very cordial by all people in the room. The tour was highly regarded and positive toward the responsible rancher/farmer in maintaining a habitat for the sage grouse.
    The Sec. of Interior was listening, commenting, answering questions, and commenting on what she was learning. The Game Fish and Wildlife Director also listened, commented and answered, but was more firm in composure. The BLM Director talked less, but seemed at ease listening. It should be noted that all were busy writing notes. The Governor Was very genial and Noted some comments to some state control and local, all complimentary to the local and eleven state regional diversity to each specific environment of the sage grouse lek, where the sage grouse live.
    The message was that one-size-fits-all regulation does not work in an 11 state region, one state or even in one county. Therefore each landowner knows best what will best benefit the sage grouse. Predators of the sage grouse were also brought up and the need to control them.
    Wildfires were discussed in that they kill habitats and birds. Also access to fire fighting in established lek areas. At this juncture the Sec. brought up preventative forest thinning, lumbering, and removal of beetle kill trees.
    Rather than bringing up negatives,positives were brought up by the audience. They brought up the want of the public, residents and locals for more access to lands. They talked about the places of coal, gas and oil were in areas where they no leks. This should be used for those resources to help the nation needs, economy,and local economy.
    I believe it lasted 2 hours and was thought to be very productive by all that I have talked to after the meeting.

    • Bob Terry
      January 23, 2014 at 10:58 am

      I’m sure it was a good meeting…but when the press…( they are worthless as well) are told sorry you cannot be there..okay whats the hidden agenda..This whole Colorado legislature.. Our State Senators…we’re for this until it goes against that ..and jobs well sorry…
      Sorry they are all phonies..and agenda and intent is warm and fuzzy … They don’t care and they’ll break it off in YOU..and the rest of us … Long live our snail darter minnow…Long live and Hail the Sage Grouse


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