Endangered Species Act

On Wednesday, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This comes right after a court ruling on Monday that returned federal protections back to the Yellowstone grizzly bear. Republicans have long been pushing for the modernization of the ESA, including Wyoming's U.S. Senator John Barrasso.

A federal judge has extended a temporary ban on grizzly bear hunting near Yellowstone National Park while he mulls the animal’s fate.

 


6:00 p.m. update: A federal judge has put the freeze on grizzly bear hunts near Yellowstone National Park while he mulls reinstating Endangered Species Act protections for the animals. They will now be pushed back at least two weeks. 

A federal judge is taking his time deciding whether or not to reinstitute Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears.

A U.S. district court hearing Thursday could decide the fate of grizzly bears living around Yellowstone National Park.

When federal protections were lifted for the Yellowstone-area grizzly bear last year, conservation groups quickly got to work to reverse that decision. One of those attempts was recently thwarted when U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced they would not restore protections after a months-long review.

Matt Bloom/KUNC

Standing at the edge of the Cache La Poudre River in Fort Collins, Boyd Wright adjusted his sunglasses against the bright sunlight. He pointed to the Fossil Creek ditch, a diversion structure dividing the waterway.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

The U.S. Department of Interior decided Tuesday that the greater sage grouse does not need protection under the Endangered Species Act. The bird spans 11 western states including Colorado, where it lives in pockets along the western slope, but is mostly concentrated in the northwest part of the state.

Gov. John Hickenlooper was one of the many people working to avoid a federal listing for the bird. While the sage grouse decision is a win for the governor, a few other initiatives – and longtime battles in Colorado – still need his attention.

Bob Wick / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The greater sage grouse, a bird whose range spans 11 western states, including Colorado, will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Sally Jewell, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, announced the decision in a video released on Twitter.

Jewell cited the efforts of land-owners and government in states like Colorado and Wyoming, who have invested proactively in plans to protect the sagebrush landscape, which she said was suffering from “death by a thousand cuts.”

The greater sage grouse is a peculiar and distinctly Western bird. It's about the size of a chicken and about as adaptable as the dodo bird, which is to say it's not very adaptable at all — at least not in a human-driven time scale.

In biological terms, the greater sage grouse is perfectly adapted for its habitat: the rolling hills of knee-high silver scrub that's sometimes called the sagebrush sea. It's the oft-forgotten parts of the fast-changing West — The Big Empty, as settlers used to call it.

Bob Wick, Bureau Of Land Management / Flickr - Creative Commons

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service has announced a new plan to protect the greater sage grouse from extinction, while hoping to prevent the bird from being added to the endangered species list.

The sage grouse population has dropped from 16 million birds to less than half a million, mainly due to lost sagebrush habitat. The bird's range spans 11 western states including Colorado.

"As land managers of two-thirds of greater sage grouse habitat, we have a responsibility to take action that ensures a bright future for wildlife and a thriving western economy," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at the announcement in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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