Conservation Groups Claim New Federal Guidelines to Protect Sage Grouse are Flawed

_--Chad Love
_

Some conservation groups are blasting new proposed federal guidelines for protecting sage grouse habitat as critically flawed.

From this story in the Billings Gazette:

Conservation groups across the West expressed disappointment Wednesday in a federal document that will guide the management of sage grouse habitat over the next several years. The Bureau of Land Management's new Instruction Memorandum, released Tuesday, recommends policies needed to mitigate the threats to sage-grouse habitat until long-term protection measures are developed.

But conservationists and biologists on Wednesday called the interim plan flawed, saying that while it encourages stronger protections, it fails to establish the policies needed to safeguard grouse from the threats the bird faces across its range.

"In cases where BLM officials want to ignore the welfare of sage grouse and ram through projects that are detrimental, there will be little in the new policy to stop them," said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance. "The interim policy is written with such loose language that BLM officials will have the latitude to do anything they want ˜ or nothing at all ˜ to protect the grouse." In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified the threats that sage grouse face across its range. Among them, the agency named fragmentation from invasive plants, energy development, urbanization and agricultural development.

Thoughts? How many of you hunted sage grouse this year? Do you think the sage grouse is one of those species, like the lesser prairie chicken, that appears doomed to becoming "recreationally extinct" in terms of hunting opportunity?