Newspaper column: Are sage grouse really threatened?

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are pliable.

The Legislature set up a committee to protect sagebrush ecosystems in an effort to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the sage grouse as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Sage grouse

The committee is coming up with plans, maps, mitigation strategies and whatever it takes, because such a listing would place huge swaths of rural Nevada and other Western states off-limits to mining, grazing, farming, fences, oil and gas exploration, roads, power lines, wind turbines and solar panels, various forms of recreation and more — killing jobs and economic development, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Hardly anyone is questioning the Fish and Wildlife Service’s claim that the sage grouse population is dwindling toward potential extinction.

But in a paper published in February 2012 a group calling itself the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy and Reliability (CESAR) questioned the validity of the assumptions and data and math used by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The question atop the opening page is: “Science or Advocacy?”

CESAR claims the service relied almost exclusively on a monograph, “Studies in Avian Biology,” by a private group called the Cooper Ornithological Society and says much of the material was written by employees of federal agencies who basically peer reviewed each other’s work.

The center’s review of “Avian Biology” found insufficient data to support the premise that sage grouse populations have declined from those present prior to European exploration and settlements, “particularly in light of the very small numbers of sage grouse documented by the first Europeans.”

Read the entire column at the Ely or Elko websites.

Read the pdf: Sage Grouse Report

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7 comments on “Newspaper column: Are sage grouse really threatened?

  1. Vernon Clayson says:

    Been here 30 years but never saw a sage grouse, on the other hand I recall seeing roadrunners in empty lots now full of homes and businesses. Where oh where was the caring hand of government?

  2. Rincon says:

    The fact that some group files a petition means little. Petitions are filed every time any large piece of land is affected. CESAR disagrees with Wikipedia by a factor of 32. One would have hoped that science could be a little more precise:

    “Residential building and energy development have caused the Sage grouse population to decline from 16 million 100 years ago to between 200,000 and 500,000 today.[39]
    This species is in decline due to loss of habitat; the bird’s range has shrunk in historical times, having been extirpated from British Columbia, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sage_Grouse#Status

    Unless one can argue that the grouse weren’t at all eliminated from Kansas, etc., it’s hard to believe CESAR’s claim that there may not have been any population decline at all.

  3. People who killed predators and watered cattle caused the population to boom. Since feds have cut back on grazing, grouse are returning to more historic population levels.

  4. John Smith says:

    They weren’t when I tried to hunt them 40 years ago with my dad.

    Hope you are well. jls

  5. You mean they weren’t threatened by you, John?

    Like when I when dove and quail hunting with my dad? I was no threat.

  6. Steve says:

    Were they good eating John?

  7. […] If Amodei is open to suggests, perhaps he could add in requirement that the federal agencies also pay for predator control — another major cause of any sage grouse population decline, if there really is any. […]

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