Editorial: You may not ruffle a single sage grouse feather

Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives. — Ronald Reagan

Let’s see what tips the scales for your typical federal bureaucrat. Ah, here is an open window into the mind of one now. Let us look in.

It is March, and for nearly a year the Baker Water and Sewer General Improvement District has been trying in vain to get permission to replace its leaking 250,000-gallon municipal water tank on a tiny 30-by-100-foot tract of Bureau of Land Management-controlled land. The leak poses a threat to fire safety as well the risk of bacterial contamination of the town’s sole water supply.

An editorial comment about the plight of Baker residents? (From Great Basin website)

But the safety and health of the 100 or so homes and businesses that use the water have been weighed and found wanting when compared to the potential perturbance of greater sage grouse, even though the Interior Department said the birds did not warrant being listed under the Endangered Species Act and are still legally hunted in Nevada.

The town of Baker must jump through hoops to assure the federal bureaucrats that anything they do to assure their own safety does not disturb a chicken-sized bird with a showy mating ritual.

This was on display at a recent meeting of the White Pine County Board of Commissioners, as recounted by The Ely Times.

The commissioners were attempting to referee between the tiny town and the mammoth and intractable federal agency.

BLM Ely District Manager Michael Herder was also present.

“We’re here to address any issues,” Herder told the commissioners and representatives of the water district.

Asked if the water district could begin construction to replace the tank by May 1, Herder’s reply revealed just where his agency’s priorities lie.

“If we meet the criteria,” he was quoted as saying. “Realistically speaking, biologically speaking, it’s in the best interest of the sage grouse if the new tank is completed and the old one removed in one season. If we can limit the time period that both tanks are in place, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Herder added under further questioning that, “Our attorneys are already looking at it. Completion in one year is very appealing. As long as there is a net conservation gain, it’s doable. We still have to do bird surveys before construction can happen, but Baker GID can qualify for exceptions to expedite the process, as long as there is a net conservation gain. We’re confident it’s not going to be an issue. After the end of the nesting season, there’s between a week and a month before construction can start.”

But in December officials said the BLM’s delays in approving the project could jeopardize its state loan under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, without which they could not afford the replacement. They also said the BLM is asking them to complete a 12-month project in only four months.

There you have it. People are an invasive species to the federal bureaucrats, encroaching on their pristine range. The health and safety of the citizenry is of no concern if it ruffles a single grouse feather.

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record. It ran as a column in the Elko Daily Free Press.


3 comments on “Editorial: You may not ruffle a single sage grouse feather

  1. JFalk says:

    Thanks for writing this, Mr. Mitchel, and showing the callous foolishness of the BLM. One wonders how much longer we will let this go on; this using “critters of convenience” to satisfy their agenda of running people off the land…the spotted owl, the desert tortoise, the snail darter, the yellow-billed cuckoo, to name a few. Cliff Gardner of Elko County told me this morning that was pleased to have a conversation last week with you in Las Vegas. I have a great amount of respect for Cliff. He gave a lecture here in Fallon a couple of weeks ago on the Constitution and problems we have with our government, particularly agencies of the Interior Department. I picked up the battle about five years ago when I started looking into Agenda 21 and have attended legislative sessions in Carson city on the transfer of control of public lands to the state, often giving public comment. I also attend most of the county commissioners’ meetings here in Churchill County, making comment there, too, in an effort to get them focused on what the BLM and other agencies are doing to us. It’s a shame that the federal agents refuse to listen to good science and common sense when making decisions that effect the lives of so many people and the economy of the western states. It’s a fact that there were few sage grouse in the west prior to the advent of agriculture in the west. By the mid-50s they were flourishing; they loved the protection from predators the ranchers provided and the food they could glean from the farms. Then the federal agencies started withholding ranching allotments, buying up farm land to put into wildlife refuges that now have become so massive that they cannot be properly managed by the growing number of agents assigned to them. Add to this the increasing number of acres that lie fallow, storing up fuel for wildfires, which records show have increased in number and intensity over the past 50 or more years. This, more than anything, has reduced the population of sage grouse and its habitat. I’m sure you recognize that this will continue, along with the protests by people like Cliven Bundy and Cliff Gardner and the late LaVoy Finicum, until the western states convince the federal government that those closest to the land are the best stewards and that the goals of Agenda 21 offer no benefits for Americans. Jim Falk, Churchill County

  2. Mr. Gardner makes the point about the history of grouse in a column in the Elko paper in the fall of 2014. Well worth the read:


    Thanks for your feedback.

  3. Winston Smith says:

    Yeah, the funny thing about agendas: They Trump everything else 🙂

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