It’s Science, Folks

In case you missed it this week, Dennis Webb of the Grand Junction Sentinel released a series of stories profiling Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper’s latest trip across northwest Colorado. 

The stories focus on the ever-evolving plight of the greater sage grouse. The bird is considered a keystone species across the West and is in danger of being added to the endangered list.

We’ve profiled the conflict surrounding the greater sage grouse before in both Colorado and Montana. Unfortunately the same theme reemerges everywhere we look:

The science behind the potential listing is being criticized by both industry officials and elected representatives. Now we can add Gov. Hickenlooper to the mix. In the story, Hickenlooper claims the long-term effects of oil and gas development on the bird are unclear, saying, “It’s hard to say that those activities are the cause of diminishing numbers of sage grouse.”

But even Colorado’s department of Parks and Wildlife is clear about the detrimental effects to the sage grouse. In their report they state:

“In the eastern portion of Greater Sage Grouse range (Colorado’s population), oil and gas development was seen as being the highest threat to the bird, followed by infrastructure as associated with energy development and urbanization.”

To be fair, the report also mentions additional impacts such as agriculture and recreation, but singles out oil and gas development.

At Western Values Project we believe stakeholders must work together to find compromise. No one wants to see the greater sage grouse listed, as it would most certainly impact a variety of economic sectors. But folks have to agree on a set of facts as a baseline in order to move forward.

Challenging sound science for political showmanship is counterproductive for both industry and elected officials. Doing so only serves to exacerbate conflict.  Meanwhile, the factors impacting the bird listing will go unresolved. And that’s exactly the wrong way to find commonsense solutions to our most pressing natural resource issues.

We’ll be tracking this issue in Colorado and across the West.  Stay tuned for more from Western Values Project.

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