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Interior Secretary Jewell encourages governors to do what’s right for sage grouse, the West

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urged Western governors to follow through on sage grouse conservation efforts.  Photo by Lew CarpenterInterior Secretary Sally Jewell urged Western governors to follow through on sage grouse conservation efforts. Photo by Lew Carpenter

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is urging Western governors "to stay at the table" to complete plans to conserve the greater sage-grouse and do what's right for the bird as well as the region's public lands and economy.

Jewell spoke at last week's Western Governors' Association annual meeting. Ten governors attended the meeting in Colorado Springs. WGA Chairman and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Vice Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval welcomed Arizona's Jan Brewer, Idaho's Butch Otter, Kansas's Sam Brownback, Montana's Steve Bullock, North Dakota's Jack Dalrymple, South Dakota's Dennis Daugaard, Utah's Gary Herbert and Wyoming's Matt Mead.

As the event's first keynote speaker, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell discussed issues related to wildfires, drought, energy development and sage grouse.

“What we have here – and you all know this – is bipartisan, practical efforts undertaken by these men and women (Governors) on stage with me to oversee the lands, waters and wildlife of the West,” said Secretary Jewell. “We need bipartisan, active leadership now more than ever. There’s one thing that we have in common is that the issues are complex; they are not easily solved, and are in many times in conflict with one another.”

Jewell pointed out that for decades there have been declines in sage brush vegetation, which has affected not just the sage grouse but many other species, and the solutions can’t be addressed alone.

“We’ve had an unprecedented and proactive partnerships among many of the governors sitting at the table, and some governors that aren’t here, to work together collectively to help the Fish and Wildlife service understand the commitments and the work on the ground that we hope will preclude the need for a listing of that species when we hit the deadline in 2015,” said Jewell. “There are really, really good efforts under way. Wyoming has been a leader since 2007 working on range-wide plans to preserve core wildlife areas while continuing development. “

What's good for the bird...

 Jewell highlighted that other state partners also are working hard on plans with private land owners and exercising their executive authority on working collaboratively with the BLM on this unprecedented effort across many, many states to say “how do we preserve our ecosystems,” not just for the sage grouse, which may be the indicator species. Jewell quoted an Oregon rancher who said, “What’s good for the bird is good for the herd,” and she said that statement underscores that a healthy sage brush ecosystem is good for cattle, is good for mule deer, is good for pronghorn antelope and elk and 250 other species that rely on healthy ecosystems.

“So I want to compliment all of you governors on staying at the table and working together on landscape conservation plans that are going to both preclude the need for listing, but also drive the economy in ways that are important to you,” Jewell added.

Jewell also took time to recognize the hard work of the scientific guidance of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She said that the landscapes we enjoy in the West are “largely because of the hard work of many, many people, and the scientific guidance provided by the Fish and Wildlife service, NOAA and others that help us understand these ecosystems, so what we know about the western United States can stay the western United States and the things that we care about – the wildlife, the vistas, the views, the habitat, the cultural sites and so on.”

Over the finish line

Finally, Jewell took Congress to task. “I also want to say that we don’t want to kick the can down the road on this. There’s been some members in Washington D.C. who would just like to put this off for another 10 years, and I can tell you that putting this off for another 10 years is not going to help this bird, it’s going to hurt this bird. And we need to stay at the table together, stay on the deadline that is court mandated, don’t change the rules and let’s get this thing over the finish line in a way that is good for the bird, good for your economies and get this uncertainty behind all of us, so I would appreciate all of your help in making that happen.”

About the Author
Lew Carpenter

Lew Carpenter is a Regional Representative for the National Wildlife Federation. He works with NWF's affiliates and other independent organizations in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. The groups include thousands of conservation-minded hunters and anglers. He also works with the outdoor writer's community to educate hunters and anglers on the rapid loss of Louisiana wetlands.

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