Simpson And Otter Weigh In On Idaho Sage Grouse Debate

Nov 12, 2015

It's been almost two months since the Obama administration decided not to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Just a few days later, Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter filed a lawsuit challenging the BLM and Forest Service for the changes in land-use regulations that came with the ESA decision.

Otter said at the time he was supportive of the decision to not list the native bird, but accused federal officials of creating "legally flawed" last-minute changes to the plans. From the Sept. 25 press release:

"In short, the land-use plan amendments are illegal because they violate the federal agencies’ mandate to manage public land for multiple-use, which includes recreation, resource development, fish and wildlife and livestock grazing." - Gov. Otter's office

But according to a story from the Associated Press, Otter may have changed his mind since then. The Governor told land management officials Tuesday he would have rather seen the sage grouse receive ESA protections than work under the new federal land regulations. 

Rep. Mike Simpson doesn't agree. As the Twin Falls Times-News reports, Simpson says listing the sage grouse would mean ranchers would have to "consult on every decision that [they] make on [their] allotments."  The Republican Congressman also told the newspaper he hopes a measure about sage grouse will be added to the federal spending bill. The federal government is currently funded through December 11.

In other sage grouse news: reseeding has ramped up in the wake of the mammoth Soda Fire earlier this year. KIVI-TV reports that BLM crews are working to control the spread of invasive species like cheatgrass, which come in after a wildfire and create more fuel for blazes the next year. The Department of the Interior has made fighting invasive species a priority in sage grouse territory, including the area where the Soda Fire burned. Invasive plants take over the landscape, choking out native grasses and making the sagebrush ecosystem more susceptible to fire.

The agency will disperse 2.4 million pounds of seeds over the Soda Fire burn scar, which encompasses more than 400 square miles.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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