USFWS Approach Questioned
March 8, 2013
On January 11, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published both a Proposed Rule which proposes the Gunnison Sage Grouse be listed under the Endangered Species Act as “Endangered” and a corresponding Proposed Rule identifying lands to be designated as critical habitat. Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Sheep Industry Association respectfully addressed concerns that the USFWS actions will have substantial and devastating effects on the working relationship between the USFWS and those who competently manage the lands.
Designation of the Gunnison Sage Grouse and the consequential habitat designation could result in substantial decreases in historical grazing patterns for producers who depend upon locally available allotments to ensure the success of their livestock operations. This decrease in private monitoring of the public lands proposed as critical habitat will also decrease management of predatory species, decrease value of private lands in direct proximity of the designated lands due to extensive, pervasive regulations and increase natural fuel for wildfires as a result of lack of natural control from grazing.
Ultimately, unanticipated decisions of this nature create disillusioned relationships between producers and agency officials and discourage future voluntary participation in conservation programs. The livestock industry is concerned that listing of the Gunnison Sage Grouse and the drastic subsequent change in land use threaten the longevity of economic sustainability of livestock production in the area. Additionally, if livestock operations cease to be economically viable, their land is likely to be sold for uses that are economically viable-such as development, a land use that poses great challenges for sustainable use at any level. We are also concerned that this proposed decision will negatively impact the pending review of the Greater Sage Grouse and the ongoing voluntary efforts to avert that bird’s listing.