BOISE, Idaho — Idaho lawmakers are looking for ways to reverse the decline in the state’s dwindling sage grouse population. They’re worried that if the state doesn’t act, the federal government will impose its own plan to protect the bird under the Endangered Species Act.
Sage grouse are known to live in 11 Western states, including Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Over the past fifty years the bird population has declined due to loss of habitat.
Since 1997 Idaho’s sage grouse protection plan has relied on voluntary measures by landowners to maintain sage grouse habitat.
Administrator of the Idaho Office of Species Conservation Nate Fisher told lawmakers that federal oversight would blanket the West’s sage brush steppe “with additional restrictions which will ultimately be over-bearing, broad-brushed and unnecessary in many areas.”
Fisher said it would be in Idaho’s best interest to have its own plan in place in the event the sage grouse are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has asked for a sage grouse task force to draft a management plan. That task force would be make up of stakeholders including ranchers, farmers, state and county leaders and conservation groups. Fisher says it’s possible a plan could be drafted in four months.
The Legislature would be asked to sign off on a sage grouse management plan possibly as early as next year.
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