Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure

Grouse chick. Photo: Wildlands Defense.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was written and passed into law for just one reason —  to keep fellow inhabitants of our beautiful blue planet from becoming extinct due to the actions of humans. So when sage grouse populations, which are estimated to have been as high as 16 million historically, plunged to an estimated 200,000-500,000 in the last few decades, they were determined to be “warranted” for listing on the Endangered Species Act. Then along came the conservation collaborators with a plan to keep them from the protections of the Endangered Species Act.

It is unfathomable why organizations and individuals who promote themselves as conservationists in Montana have worked overtime to keep threatened fish and wildlife species from Endangered Species Act listing.

For instance, the last wild population of fluvial arctic grayling in the contiguous United States is found in the Upper Big Hole River. Yet Montana Trout Unlimited was ambivalent about listing and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks fought to keep the grayling from being listed — and protected — under the Endangered Species Act. Now, assurance that they will not go extinct is still highly uncertain, especially with the unknown vagaries of climate change.

When it comes to sage grouse, the primary destroyers of the once-vast sagebrush sea are grazing and its associated fencing, oil and gas development, and road-building. But rather than curtail those activities through ESA listing the collaborators, led by Montana Audubon, decided to go along with yet another advisory council where they could sit down with the habitat destroyers and come to a wonderful collaborative agreement to prevent the extinction of sage grouse.

After 10 years of meetings, reports and comparisons with the other 11 Western states where sage grouse are now nearly extirpated, the collaborators came up with their solution — the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Plan “so that Montanans maintain control of their lands, wildlife and economy,” as the state’s website says.

It’s worth noting the plan is intended to “sustain viable sage grouse populations” instead of recovering sage grouse populations. When the conservation collaborators and their ranching, oil, gas and development partners submitted the plan to Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, the first thing he did was slash the recommended one-mile distance from industrial activity to sage grouse leks to 0.6 mile and exempt a long list of ongoing industrial and agricultural activities from compliance.

Yet they about broke their arms patting themselves on the back after the Obama administration approved what Montana Audubon hails as “unprecedented conservation efforts to keep sage grouse off the Endangered Species List.”

But then Donald Trump rode to the rescue of the oil and gas industry with his Interior secretary, Montana homeboy Ryan Zinke. As the Washington Post noted, “the existing order to keep drilling projects out of sensitive Priority Habitat Management Areas would be struck.” That spurred a lawsuit by Western Watersheds and Center for Biological Diversity that claims Zinke and Trump will allow “a massive proposed development of some 3,500 oil and gas wells within critical sage grouse winter habitat.” Despite the fact that 70 percent of sage grouse habitat is on federal lands, Zinke’s agency says they “are committed to being a good neighbor and respect the state’s ability to manage wildlife.”

Conservation collaborators just don’t get it that simply because they cut a mediocre “conservation” deal with a handful of locals, Congress and Trump remain fully captive to extractive industries. Conservation collaboration failures just keep coming — and more’s the pity for Montana and the West that the self-congratulatory collaborators haven’t yet learned that lesson.

More articles by:

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail