A federal judge last week rejected a challenge from environmental groups to force the federal government to take immediate action to increase protection of the sage grouse in Cheyenne, Wyo. The request could have curtailed energy production on public lands in the West.
Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled in favor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the states of Wyoming and Utah and others over environmental activist groups Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians.
The Department of the Interior is under a separate federal court order to decide by the end of 2015 whether sage grouse, a chicken-sized bird known for its elaborate mating display, should fall under the Endangered Species Act.
Pat Deibert, national sage grouse coordinator with the FWS in Cheyenne, applauded the ruling, saying the agency believes it's appropriate for the courts to defer to the agency's expertise.
"It doesn't mean we've quit working on the sage grouse," she said. "It just gives us a more reasonable amount of time."
The judge did include the following caveat at the end of his ruling pertaining to the agencies commitment to implement management practices for the sage grouse and its habitat. "If those commitments prove unreliable, the court will quickly revisit its findings here upon prompting from any party."
Reprinted in part from The Casper Star-Tribune