Yesterday, the Western Energy Alliance (WEA) released a new study highlighting the work industry has done to conserve the Greater sage-grouse. That work deserves acknowledgement. Westerners need industry at the table as a stakeholder. In states like Wyoming, industry has been a key partner. But contrary to the rhetoric coming from WEA, the work is far from over, as sage-grouse numbers and habitat have both been declining for years, in spite of the measures touted in the report. That’s just not concerning for the sage-grouse, but for the entire habitat that is home to many species including elk, deer and antelope.
So how did we get here? Put simply, the existing regulatory framework established by existing federal and state conservation plans, has been unable to stop the bleeding. Here’s a quick fact check of the study.
WEA Claim: Existing conservation measures are being implemented (6.5 per project, according to the study) and that’s evidence of the existing framework being adequate.
WEA Claim: Existing conservation measures reflect and are consistent with the best available science.
WEA Claim: Existing conservation measures in NEPA documents are adequate to conserve sage grouse.
The Path Forward
The study demonstrates that industry is capable of incorporating some improved practices informed by sound science that are good for the entire sagebrush ecosystem. But we can’t rely on industry alone. Through state and national leadership, good faith efforts from the energy industry, and folks sitting down together at the table, we can and must keep moving in the right direction.
Westerners demand and deserve that all stakeholder work together to pursue conservation, while ensuring our economies continue to grow. Striking the right balance is key to maintaining a unique and unrivaled quality of life out West. When we all work together to do all that the best available science requires of us, we’ll begin to achieve real results. Thus, it is critical that BLM and the states continue to revise and update their plans to incorporate stronger measures to conserve this iconic species.