Governor Mead Critical Of Federal Sage Grouse Changes

Aug 10, 2017

A greater sage-grouse male struts for a female at a lek (dancing or mating ground) near Bridgeport, CA
Credit Jeannie Stafford / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is concerned about the Interior Department’s recommendations to the sage grouse conservation plans. The federal agency released a report this week outlining recommendations to the 2015 plan, including giving states more leniency in enforcing the rules and changing the focus from habitat management to population goals.

Mead said he agrees with many of the Interior Department’s recommendations, including new reviews of wildfire management practices and improved grazing practices. But he said moving the focus of conservation from landscape management to population goals is a sticking point. He said many factors can make a population fluctuate.

“They have a bad fire here or severe spring weather, or a disease comes and wipes out 50 percent of population, they don’t meet their population objectives, and are we all going to be listed?” Mead said.

Mead said an endangered listing for the sage grouse could make it even harder for land developers than the current plan, given almost 80 percent of Wyoming is considered historical range for the sage grouse.  

He also said some deference should be given to the ten years of hard work and collaboration states did to put together the current sage grouse plan. 

"If the message is ‘States you can work on this a decade and find something that you think works, and in fact does work since the bird’s not listed, and we’re going to come in and make changes,” Mead said. “The next big issue that comes up, how are we going to get people to sit down and spend ten years of their life?”

The Interior Department’s changes are set to take effect immediately. The full report can be found here.