Writings and observations

ridenbaugh Northwest

A conservation staffer examines sage grouse policy and writes that “Following science is the way to maintain greater sage-grouse.” The writer is Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for American Bird Conservancy and works to conserve endangered species and wildlife habitat on western federal lands.

The Obama administration’s largest proposed land and species conservation initiative – protecting the Greater Sage Grouse – appears to be falling short of promises based on early returns. And while these current federal approaches could do an about face that could ultimately prove successful, that seems unlikely given the analysis just released by conservation groups that is based on the government’s own scientific expert’s recommendations.

The Scorecard for Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation is a checklist of standards to conserve the Greater Sage-Grouse and its habitat that can be used to determine if proposed management plans are effective and based on the best available science. It is available online.

The Scorecard’s standards are the government’s recommendations contained in the National Technical Team report. If followed, the Scorecard is a recipe for conserving grouse habitat, and providing the “adequate regulatory mechanisms” federal agencies need to implement in order to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing of Greater Sage-Grouse as a threatened species next year.

The Scorecard was used to evaluate the Bureau of Land Management’s Lander Resource Management Plan. This is the first completed management plan that addresses the conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse in a critically important sagebrush habitat in Wyoming.

The review finds that the Lander plan fails to meet most of the conservation measures recommended in the NTT report, and based on the best available science is not likely to ensure that conservation measures will be effective in conserving the sage grouse. Because the Lander plan does not pass muster, if the other fourteen management plans follow this Wyoming model, the sage-grouse will likely continue to decline, warranting the species’ protection under the Endangered Species Act.

While the Lander plan did not designate sage-grouse reserves as recommended in the Scorecard, it did designate an extensive 481,000 acre National Trails Management Corridor to preserve historic and scenic trails that also provides some of the conservation standards known to benefit grouse. The Lander plan highlights the need for stronger standards and the potential for designating protected areas in the remaining fourteen resource management plans still to be released.

For the Obama administration, these remaining plans are a golden opportunity to advance public land conservation, provide balance in the face of a stampede of development hitting the region, and leave future generations of Americans a legacy of wide-open spaces that harbor abundant wildlife.

Unfortunately, the Scorecard’s Lander review reveals that unless the Obama administration changes course and starts following the best available science, we are headed for continuing controversy as a result of ineffective management plans, declining grouse populations, and ESA listings.

Fortunately, the Scorecard also provides policymakers the formula needed to change that and to conserve grouse habitat. What we need now is a demonstration of the leadership necessary to make that change happen.

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Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

West Ada defeats school bond proposal (Boise Statesman)
Kuna school trustee survives recall vote (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Boise police unveil military equipment (Boise Statesman)
IF police want to expand the force (IF Post Register)
School levy fails in Teton County (IF Post Register)
Iona ends try to force subdivision annexation (IF Post Register)
Lapwai levy proposal rejected (Lewiston Tribune)
State won’t release name of tax break applicant (Lewiston Tribune)
Viola working on new community center (Moscow News)
Demographics report shows city growth (Nampa Press Tribune)
Labrador talks at town hall (Nampa Press Tribune)
Train derailment at Blackfoot (Pocatello Journal)
Wendell again turns down school bond (TF Times News)
Police defend military surplus program (TF Times News)
Twin Falls area battling black fly invasion (TF Times News)

Group formed to support parking districts (Corvallis Gazette)
UO blasted in response to verbal set-to (Eugene Register Guard)
Car remains, still, in McKenzie River (Eugene Register Guard)
Irrigators see tight water supply (KF Herald & News)
Medford council candidates talk pot (Medford Tribune)
Watchers checking out new black wolf in area (Medford Tribune)
Med Columbia Bus Co looks for more drivers (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Biologists consider new collar for OR-7 (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Looking at how gentrification happens (Portland Oregonian)
Reviewing the Oregon v Oracle battle (Salem Statesman Journal)

Building found for Silverdale library (Bremerton Sun)
Homeless nonprofit slated for Belfair (Bremerton Sun)
How much psychiatric board happens in WA? (Kennewick Herald)
Inslee looks until Roza irrigation project (Yakima Herald Republic, Kennwick Herald)
Longview resident complaint of bad water, again (Longview News)
Final piece of Elwha River dam gone (Port Angeles News)
Weyerhaeuser sells Federal Way, moves to Seattle (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune)
AG urges court not to hold legislature in contempt (Spokane Spokesman)
High Times says pot shop infringed trademark (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma cops have been hoovering call phone data (Tacoma News Tribune)
Port labor group okays grain shipping deal (Vancouver Columbian)
Train official assert oil shipment safety (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima dismisses candidate for county clerk (Yakima Herald Republic)

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