If only spotted owls were delicious

Live and lek live: http://youtu.be/m0M8pZnNlnI.

Did you know that if you buy bison meat instead of beef you are saving an endangered species? North American Bison were in danger of extinction, but now are flourishing, largely because they can be harvested for human consumption. When local citizens have a financial stake in preservation of a species, they are more eager to see the species survive. The private ranching of the North American Bison is an example of free-market environmentalism, based on property rights and market solutions.

Washoe County is being threatened by another kind of environmentalism, the kind that demands a big-government, centrally planned solution. The Washoe County Commission appeared stunned this January to learn the implications for the county if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the sagebrush grouse as an endangered species. It is expected to decide by 2015. The Commission was only apprised by its staff the day before the deadline to file comments with the FFWS and be recognized as a cooperating agency. The Commission expressed alarm that the listing could block Reno’s chance at the proposed Canada to Mexico I-11 highway.There was apprehension that the listing would impact energy development, especially renewables. Northern Washoe County is to see geothermal, solar and wind energy development spurred by the controversial legislative mandate that 20 percent of Nevada’s energy be from renewables. If the grouse is listed as endangered, energy development could be limited to areas adjacent to roads.

Nevada is not alone, as many Western states are alarmed at the amount of land the federal government could tie up. Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Montana and others are scrambling to find ways to avoid the listing of the Sagebrush Grouse as an Endangered Species. The Grouse has been intensely studied by the Nevada Department of Wildlife since 2000.

The Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973 by Republican President Richard Nixon. Opponents say the Act has saved very few species, while often devastating local businesses and commandeering private and public lands. Only 30 of the 9,000 listed species have recovered, and 10 have gone extinct. That amounts to a success rate of less than 1 percent with an annual budget of more than $2 billion. Listing the grouse would make Nevada’s conservation efforts completely subordinate to federal dictates.

A listing on the Endangered Species Act could provoke a firestorm of protests such as occurred when the Northern Spotted Owl was listed. The “Shovel Brigade Uprising” in Nevada was also over an endangered species, the bull trout. Many farmers in California blame the Act for exacerbating the long drought as water is diverted to preserve small fish and amphibious species that instead could be used for crop irrigation. Now, as Nevada gets ready to assert its claim over the federal lands within its borders, 11 of its 17 counties could face a virtual federal takeover.

The Sagebrush Grouse is a wonderful bird, best known for its courting ritual, called a lek, where the males dance on ground and boom out their mating calls from large air sacs. The grouse are hunted by every species, depend almost entirely on sagebrush for sustenance, and demand large areas of open ground. Helping them involves removing or marking barbed wire fencing that they can become entangled in, cutting down non-native trees that raptors perch on, and managing the sagebrush vital to their diet. Ways must be found to encourage ranchers and energy developers to work to preserve this little bird or human food and energy needs could be what is endangered by a heavy handed federal bureaucracy.