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USFWS Lauds Wyoming on Sage Grouse Protections

In response to the state's action earlier in June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has sent Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead a letter of commendation for the state's efforts to conserve sage grouse throughout the state under a protection plan ordered by the governor (see Daily GPI, June 6).

Mead is heading a regular meeting of the Western Governors' Association (WGA) this week, and has said he plans to discuss sage grouse management issues with the other governors, offering them Wyoming's support.

"I plan to offer support to other western states interested in what we have done," Mead said Wednesday in preparation for the two-day WGA meetings in Coeur d'Alene, ID. "I believe this is a way to show the federal government how states can lead when it comes to species management, and do so in a very responsive and proactive way."

On June 2 Mead signed an updated version of Wyoming's Sage Grouse Core Area Protection Executive Order. He characterized the order as providing more flexibility for management of the area, adding language requiring continual reevaluation of the science and data for sage grouse management.

In its letter to Mead, USFWS said the action in Wyoming "can result in the long-term conservation of the greater sage grouse, and thus reduce the need to list the species under the 1973 Endangered Species Act as amended. If fully implemented, we believe the executive order can provide the conservation program necessary to achieve your goal of precluding listing of the greater sage grouse in Wyoming."

USFWS has previously determined that listing the greater sage grouse as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act was warranted, but what it said was "precluded." That only meant that there were higher-priority species in need of the federal government's resources, a spokesperson for Mead said.

In updating an earlier state order, Mead acknowledged there was an "active effort" to have the sage grouse listed, but the new state order was an attempt to head that off with what he called "a compromise acceptable to all sides." Mead is a strong advocate for developing more state initiatives to lead the way to species protection.

"I appreciate the federal government's acknowledgement of our efforts and support of this strategy," he said.

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