OPINION: Wyoming Must Lead in Conserving Greater Sage-Grouse as Feds Prioritize Energy Over Critical Wildlife Habitat

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Photo credit: Melissa Hemken
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The following opinion was written and submitted by Dustin Bleizeffer, Communications Director, Wyoming Outdoor Council

LANDER — This week Gov. Mark Gordon revised the Sage-Grouse Executive Order, re-affirming the state’s commitment to Wyoming’s Core Area Protection Strategy — a critical action as the federal government continues to shrink from its own commitments with Wyoming and other states in conserving the iconic western species.

“We’re pleased that Gov. Gordon has confirmed the state’s core area protection strategy, showing that Wyoming will continue to lead in efforts to conserve the Greater sage-grouse,” Wyoming Outdoor Council conservation advocate John Rader said. “But our federal partners need to uphold their responsibilities to make sure the state strategy can work effectively.”

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Wyoming plays an outsized role in sage-grouse conservation because it has the most and highest-quality sage-grouse habitat left in the world. After drastic losses in sagebrush habitat and decades of crashing sage-grouse population numbers across the West, Wyoming initiated the multi-year effort that resulted in the 2015 state and federal sage-grouse conservation plans — which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service credited for avoiding a listing under the Endangered Species Act. 

But the BLM and USFS revised their sage-grouse conservation plans earlier this year, significantly weakening the federal strategy. Now, with the federal government prioritizing energy development over all other uses on federal public lands, it’s up to individual states — and Wyoming in particular — to lead on sage-grouse conservation. Why does it matter? Because if the sage-grouse is in trouble, so is our way of life in Wyoming.

“We were much better off when we had a fully-committed partner in the federal government,” Rader said. “Wyoming will again have to lead the way and insist that federal agencies follow our expertise and efforts to conserve the sage-grouse.”

Contact:
Dustin Bleizeffer
Communications Director
Wyoming Outdoor Council
(307) 267-3327
dustin@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org