Sage Grouse Wins Big in Court; Trump Admin Rule-Changes Overturned

(EnviroNews USA Headline News Desk) — Unbeknownst to many, the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) has been smack-dab in the middle of the costliest endangered species fight in history — a battle spanning nearly two decades – and one that included several attacks by the Trump Administration and fellow Republicans – this, after the Obama Administration chose to deny the bird protection under the Endangered Species Act in a controversial 2015 decision.  On Feb. 11, 2021, the bird known for its mating ritual dances found itself, once again, at the center of a court battle for its survival, but this time, conservation groups won the day, giving hope to wildlife advocates trying to save the species from blinking into extinction.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho overturned the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to strip protections for 10 million acres of sage grouse habitat to make way for mining activities. Winmill wrote in his decision that the BLM failed to provide a “reasoned explanation,” violating the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), for its cancelation of protections for the high-priority sagebrush sea habitats. The court’s ruling brings this bird one step closer to receiving the kind of protections conservationists say it needs.

“We’re grateful our legal system once again protected the vanishing greater sage grouse from the reckless, lawbreaking Trump Administration,” said Michael Saul, Senior Attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity (the Center), in a press release. “Now the new Interior secretary can establish appropriate habitat protections based on science, not favoritism to the mining industry.”

The latest ruling avoids reinstating a 2015 mining ban and does provide the BLM with an opportunity to consider the appropriate protections for critical sage grouse habitats using the latest science available.

“This decision is a stinging rebuke of the Trump Administration’s total disregard for fact and science,” said Sarah Stellberg, an attorney with Advocates for the West, which is representing the other plaintiffs in the case. “It’s also a crucial win for sage grouse, who now more than ever need the protections this mining ban would provide.” Advocates for the West represented Western Watersheds Project (WWP), the Center, WildEarth Guardians and Prairie Hills Audubon Society in the case.

This isn’t the first time the sage grouse has been granted a victory in the legal system though. On Oct. 16, 2019, a federal court said the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) artificially minimized the dangers faced by the imperiled bird. It struck down a Trump Administration ruling that attempted to loosen restrictions for industry across the sagebrush steppe.

“The Trump Administration has been trying to gut [sage grouse] protections. Those efforts have been illegal. We’ve been dragging them into court; we’ve been kicking their butt in court, and we’ve been stripping their ability to gut those regulations so far,” Erik Molvar, Executive Director with WWP, told EnviroNews in an on-camera interview last November.

In January of 2018, the BLM canceled an oil and gas development lease auction near eastern Idaho’s Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge after an outcry from environmentalists. The refuge is an important habitat for the sage grouse, and conservationists argued the BLM did not take into account the impact of the proposed development activities.

The subject of an extensive EnviroNews documentary, the greater sage grouse is known as an umbrella species. There are between 100,000 and 500,000 greater sage grouse in the United States, down from 16 million. These ground nesters are sensitive to environmental disturbances and face threats from development, climate change, and invasive species.

Despite the most expansive land-use and wildlife management plans in U.S. history, adopted by the largest coalition of multi-sector parties in the history of wildlife protection, in 2015, according to wildlife biologists, this unique bird continues to spiral toward extinction. By federally protecting the bird and its habitat under the Endangered Species Act, conservationists say that more than 300 species would also be shielded from the possibility of going extinct.

OTHER GREAT SAGE GROUSE REPORTS BY ENVIRONEWS

Sage Grouse: Court Stuffs Trump’s Attempt to Trash Largest Endangered Species Plan in History

(EnviroNews Nature) – Boise, Idaho – A federal court judge said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFWS) “looked at the trees without looking at the forest,” by artificially minimizing dangers facing the imperiled greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). The ruling strikes down a…

Lions and Tigers and… Sage Grouse? Oh My! – The Granddaddy Endangered Species Battle of Them All

(EnviroNews Nature) – On World Wildlife Day, March 3, 2017, EnviroNews Nature released one of the largest and most expansive documentaries ever published on a wildlife species in peril – the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). The academic yet entertaining film spans a plethora of topics and includes…

Birdbrained? Trump Admin Attacks ‘Historic’ 2015 Sage Grouse Plan, Enviro Groups File FOIAs

(EnviroNews Nature) – Washington D.C. – On August 4, 2017, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke published a memorandum calling for the immediate revision of the 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan. This memo follows up on his June Secretarial Order to review sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) protections…

Sage Grouse Saves the Day: BLM Halts Idaho Oil Lease Auction After Protests from Enviro Groups

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Conservation groups are celebrating a rare win for the environment, animals, and cleaner air as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has called off a proposed oil and gas lease sale set for March near eastern Idaho’s Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge, an important habitat…

The Splendor of Utah’s Sage Hen Hollow – One of America’s Last Bustling Sage Grouse Leks

(EnviroNews Nature) – The following is an excerpt from the EnviroNews Nature full feature documentary Lions and Tigers and… Sage Grouse? Oh My! – The Granddaddy Endangered Species Battle of Them All. That film may be seen in its entirety on EnviroNews. The transcript reads as follows: Urry…

Press Conference Footage: DOI With 4 Western Guvs: No Endangered Listing for Greater Sage Grouse

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Commerce City, Colorado – On Sept. 22, 2015, hand-in-hand with four western-state governors and the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell handed down what was surely the most anticipated wildlife announcement in United States history. The…

Dept. of Interior: No Protection for Greater Sage Grouse Under Endangered Species Act

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Commerce City, Colorado – On the morning of Tuesday August 22, 2015, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell announced that Centrocercus urophasianus, a.k.a. greater sage grouse, will not receive protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A decision by U.S. Fish…

Obama Administration Comes Out Against NDAA Sage Grouse Rider

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Washington DC – In a surprising environmentally-friendly move today following the Department of the Interior’s green light for Shell Oil Company’s arctic drilling ambitions yesterday, the Obama Administration came out against a controversial rider in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that…

Will Redrawing Core Sage Grouse Areas in Wyoming Help Save the Bird From Extinction?

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Douglas, Wyoming – In late April a gloomy report was issued by Pew Charitable Trusts that claims there is a 98.7 percent chance greater sage grouse will go extinct in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin in 30 years if the current course continues. The Powder River…

WildEarth Guardians: DOI’s Bi-State Sage Grouse ‘Conservation Success’ Is ‘Window Dressing’

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Douglas, Wyoming – On April 21, 2015 Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Sally Jewell appeared in Reno, Nevada to make a pivotal Bi-State Sage Grouse Announcement: No protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the bi-state distinct population of the greater…

Bi-State Sage Grouse Not Likely to Achieve Endangered Listing – Sec. Jewell to Make Announcement

(EnviroNews Nevada) – Reno, Nevada – In a move that will likely anger and disappoint environmentalists, the bi-state sage grouse population in California and Nevada probably will not be listed to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Late Friday, the Dept. of the Interior (DOI) quietly announced Sec. Sally…

Sec. Sally Jewell Announces DOI Will Not List Bi-State Sage Grouse as Endangered

(EnviroNews Nevada) – Reno, Nevada – To the dismay and disappointment of environmentalists, conservationists and biologist alike, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell announced on April 21, 2015 (which also happened to be Earth Day) that the bi-state sage grouse will not be making its way…

Rare Wildlife Footage: Bull Antelope Strolls Through Sage Grouse Lek During ‘Ritual Mating Dance’

(EnviroNews Idaho) – There’s been a lot in the way of local news about the imperiled Centrocercus urophasianus as of late, or sage grouse as it is commonly called. State governments and ranchers, as well as coal, oil, gas and mining companies, all have their meddling-hands in the…