Needed but forbidden

The sage grouse, better known in Nevada as the sagehen, has been precluded from listing as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The decision of “warranted but precluded” status for the bird, announced on March 5, could be reconsidered at a later time. A statement by FWS said “based on accumulated scientific data and new peer-reviewed information and analysis, the greater sage grouse warrants the protection of the Endangered Species Act but … listing the species at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species first.”

The sagehen is regarded as particularly threatened because it tends to inhabit areas that are likely areas for geothermal, solar and wind energy development.

A day before the FWS decision was announced, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to devote new resources to protection for the bird.

“We need to protect sage grouse, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s crucial for several key industries in Nevada,” Reid said in a prepared statement. “Nevada’s ranchers and farmers are essential partners in improving habitat for this important species.”

Once a dominant and plentiful species in the West, it has disappeared from five states and British Columbia. But it is still hunted in 11 states, Nevada among them.