New Clause Would Aim To Increase Sage Grouse Numbers

Jul 17, 2019

The state's sage grouse stakeholder team has recommended that Gov. Mark Gordon not only keep sage grouse numbers from going down, but increase them. 

The Sage Grouse Implementation Team said a clause should be added to the executive order declaring that, "an expansion of the species population and its habitat is a priority." This comes as the Trump Administration has put effort into opening up sage grouse core habitat to additional energy development.

National Audubon Society Vice President Brian Rutledge has worked on the team since the beginning and said, luckily a large percentage—almost 40 percent—of the birds remaining population are in Wyoming. Wyoming is also the only state in its range with dual permitting powers, meaning Wyoming has a say in the federal permitting process while other states don't.

"The federal changes have made this much more difficult in the other states, leaving Wyoming, if you will, holding the bag for sage grouse," said Rutledge.

Rutledge said the sage grouse team's goal is to set up parameters that are consistent and science based.

"One of the greatest things about the Sage Grouse Implementation Team is that now, when we work towards conservation ends, I find that some of my strongest supporters are miners and gas developers, trying to make sure that we create an atmosphere in which they can do their job and the grouse can flourish," he said.

Rutledge said that kind of agreement is important because the bird's population was hit hard this year by a long winter and a wet spring.

But he said the team is still struggling to settle questions of how noise from oil and gas fields affect the species, and that more research needs to be done on the subject.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC KUNR in Nevada and KUNC in Colorado.