In September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to make a decision that many in the West have been anticipating for years. The federal agency will decide whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, a move that many groups in states like Idaho want to avoid.
One of those groups is the Idaho Cattle Association. Wyatt Prescott lobbies for the association, and says up until recently he thought state and federal groups were working well together to protect the bird. But then the Interior Department released its management plan for the grouse in May.
Prescott was discouraged to see the plan include elements that were not in previous drafts that he says could make it more difficult for Idaho ranchers to graze their cattle.
“Really, it erroneously elevates grazing to a primary threat," says Prescott, "which it has been concluded and agreed upon by all experts that grazing is only a secondary threat.”
Wildfire and invasive species are the two most often cited primary threats to sage grouse in Idaho.
Prescott says the Idaho Cattle Association is going to protest the federal plan; they have until June 29 to do so. He says Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter has heard the association’s concerns, and is still looking for a middle ground between the state and the federal government. According to the Idaho Statesman, Otter sent Interior Secretary Sally Jewell a letter last week letting her know he is also protesting the federal plan.
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