Although the Obama administration was not expected to make its decision as to whether the bird warrants the endangered listing until November, the Bureau of Land Management’s decision this week effectively puts an oil, gas and coal moratorium on 400,000 acres – roughly 90 acres per bird.
The final decision was “pushed back until after the election, because when people understand the impact on jobs, people get mad,” said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of the Western Energy Alliance.
“They know they’ve got a tight Senate race and they know that people in Colorado who are going to vote for the next senator are upset by actions that put jobs and economic growth off –limits,” Sgamma said.
Critics of the decision fear the BLM is following the same playbook it used to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened in Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma.
After stakeholders including oil companies in Texas spent millions of dollars to incorporate a protection plan there to prevent the listing, the government announced in April it would do so in spite of the voluntary protections in place.
“They’re telling the states only we know how to protect wildlife, and that’s insulting,” Sgamma said.
“It’s not about on-the-ground species protection, it’s about controlling economics in the West,” Sgamma said.
Colorado Republican Rep. Scott Tipton said efforts are already underway at the state and local level to protect the Gunnison sage grouse, and that Coloradans should be allowed to continue without federal interference.
“I strongly urge them to work closely with local stakeholders and states who know the habitats best, and use sound, transparent science to ensure the grouse is protected while maintaining the ability of local communities to responsibly utilize and access the land,” Tipton said in a statement.
“Another critical element to ensuring the success of grouse preservation efforts is for the federal government to provide measurable species preservation goals—something that the Interior Department has failed to do to date despite numerous requests,” Tipton said.
The federal government is also considering placing the greater sage grouse on the endangered species list and locking up 1.7 million acres of land it has deemed as critical habitat in 11 states including Colorado – roughly 500 acres per bird.