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www-oregonlive-com-environment-index-ssf-2010-02-sage-grouse-endangered-species-html-2010-05-10

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http://www.oregonlive.com Sign in to OregonLive.com >> Not a member? Register Now >> Close Sign in to OregonLive.com Username _______________________________ Password _______________________________ [ ] Remember me [ ] I forgot my username or password >> Don't have an account? Register now for free, or sign in using your AIM or Google account! * Site Search * Search Local Business Listings ____________________________ [ ] _____________________ _____________________ [ ] Home News Opinion Sports Entertainment Living Interact Jobs Autos Real Estate Classifieds Shop Place An Ad * News * Business * Education * Environment * Metro * Obits * Photos * Politics * Special Coverage * US & World * Weather * more News Oregon Environment News OREGON ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS Going green, green living, eco friendly tips and articles INSIDE ENVIRONMENT The Oregonian * o Environmental News * o PDX Green Blog * o Earth Day * o Oregonian Newspaper * o Oregon Traffic News * o Weather Center * o Oregon & Washington Earthquake News * o Contact the Environment & Sustainability Team * o Send us news & photos Browse by month: [___________________] [ GO >> ] GREEN TIPS A guide to a more efficient and sustainable life. * o Wildlife officials advise against feeding ducks, geese 1:41 p.m. PT * o Celebrate the shorebirds of the Columbia River Estuary 9:50 p.m. PT * o Green wineries experiment with age-old concept: sheep as mowers 1:00 a.m. PT MORE GREEN TIPS >> ADVERTISEMENT Breaking News, Politics, Wildlife and wild places >> U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide soon whether the sage grouse deserves Endangered Species Act protection By Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian February 23, 2010, 8:51PM brianne_winter_grouse.JPGView full sizeMatthew Preusch/The OregonianBrianne Winter, a wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Land Management, is part of a study tracking sage grouse and their habitat in the Warner Valley east of Lakeview to determine how wind power development affects the birds, which could soon be added to the list of threatened and endangered species. Here Winter uses radio telemetry equipment to locate sage grouse that have been fitted with signal-emitting collars, recording their location and the character of the surrounding land. LAKEVIEW - The radio receiver hisses, squeals then beeps steadily as Brianne Winter sweeps her hand-held antenna over the sagebrush panorama of the Warner Valley. "I'd guess he's about a half mile away," says Winter, a government biologist tracking sage grouse through sideways-blowing snow in this un-peopled part of Oregon. "He's close." It may seem an esoteric undertaking, this taxpayer-funded bird count, but if the greater sage grouse gains protection under the Endangered Species Act, that could curtail everything from energy development to cattle grazing in Oregon and ten other western states. The grouse, a showy, chicken-like bird in long-term decline, is to eastern Oregon's sagebrush sea what the spotted owl is to western Oregon's old growth forests: a cornerstone creature for an increasingly rare landscape. When the owl was added to the list of threatened and endangered species nearly two decades ago, it put the brakes on public lands logging and upended the economy of rural Oregon. Friday is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's court-imposed deadline to decide whether the grouse merits similar protections. "Many of us are anxiously awaiting the decision because it does have some significant implications for how our shrub steppe ecosystems are managed," said Brent Fenty, director of the Bend-based conservation group Oregon Natural Desert Association. Winter, the biologist with the radio antenna, is part of a federal study to catalog the bird and its habitat in a long valley that sags between fault block rims east of Lakeview. male_sage_grouse_burns.jpgView full sizeSteven Nehl/The OregonianA male sage grouse near Burns in 2004. So far, about 90 birds have been fitted with radio collars that send signals to Winter's tracking equipment. The unique research hopes to establish whether construction of wind towers and the roads and power lines that go with them will speed their decline. What they find out in coming years could slow the rush for wind development now underway in eastern Oregon. "Listing is going to have such a huge impact on western land issues," said Tim McMahan, a partner at the Portland law firm Stoel Rives who represents wind developers. "I think the federal government is going to proceed with extreme caution." Sagebrush, the signature plant of the inland West, is the bird's primary food and shelter. It mates among the green-gray shrubs in spring and eats its leaves in winter. Range-wide, about half of the bird's historic habitat is gone, lost to development, grazing, fire and weeds. That and other factors like West Nile virus caused grouse numbers to fall about 3.5 percent a year between 1965 and 2003, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Geological Service. Today in Oregon, there are between a quarter and half of the number of grouse that were here in the 1970's. The state is home to an estimated fifth of all the remaining birds and their habitat. And like old growth forests the spotted owl depends on, most of the remaining sagebrush habitat is overseen by the federal government, which owns about half the land in Oregon. In recent years, the bird's legal status has ping-ponged through reviews by shifting administrations and the courts. In 2005, the Bush administration announced the bird didn't deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act. Two years later, a federal judge ruled the administration had acted illegally when it made that decision by allowing undue influence by political appointees. That set the stage for the current review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which could do one of several different things. sage_grouse_federal_lands.jpgView full sizeIt could say simply that the bird's numbers are strong enough that it doesn't merit protection, a decision that would almost certainly be challenged by conservation groups. Or the service might say the bird deserves to be listed as threatened or endangered, initiating a process to formally add it to the list of 1,215 such species. A third option is that "it could be determined that sage grouse should be listed, but because there are other species who need listing more urgently, it would be added to the list of candidate species," said Diane Katzenberger, spokeswoman for the wildlife service in Denver. That last option would mean more funding for grouse-related projects. But conservationists have challenged the service for allegedly allowing species to languish on this waiting list. On Tuesday, the service asked for week-long extension of its deadline following the death of the agency director, Sam Hamilton, last Saturday. If the bird does get federal protection, it means any activity on federal lands or involving federal money that could harm the bird would get closer scrutiny to make sure it doesn't jeopardize the species' chance for survival. Those activities could include things like leases for grazing cattle on federal land, construction of new gas pipelines or building new wind towers and turbines, all of which are already controversial. In the case of wind farms, there is practically no research data showing how wind development affects the birds. Based on studies of oil and gas drilling impacts the state recommends not siting a wind tower within three miles of leks, the breeding areas where male sage grouse perform their puffed-out courting dance in spring. grouse_study_area.jpgView full sizeWhich brings us back to Lake County, where $250,000 of federal stimulus money is paying for the study Winter and Bureau of Land Management employees began last September. Four wind farms are proposed within the 52-mile long and 16-mile wide study area. Researchers will gather all the information they can about the sage grouse in the area, and then after any or all of the wind farms are built they will go back and do the same tally. On a recent visit to the field, Winter identified about a dozen grouse in an expanse of low sagebrush. She noted the surrounding vegetation, weather and location, information that will be used to contrast with future conditions. "We have a really tiny slice of information on how grouse use that area," said Todd Forbes, the project's lead investigator. "So our biggest push with this is to gather as much information as we can about how grouse use these areas where these five wind proposals are." -- Matthew Preusch, Twitter: @mpreusch RecommendRecommend (0) Print this Email this Share this: Share with Reddit Share with Digg Share with del.icio.us Share with Google Share with Facebook Share with Buzz Up! Previous story: Longview man gets jail time in killing seabirds on Long Beach Peninsula Next story: With Old Perpetual inactive, does Mickey Hot Springs merit title of 'Oregon's only geyser'? Story tags: endangered species act | sage grouse | wind farms Comments (48 total) RSS Post a comment Oldest comments are shown first. Show newest comments first Next comments >> 1 | 2 | 3 dtroutma Posted by dtroutma February 23, 2010, 6:08PM The real panic is the KNOWN impacts from cattle grazing and grazing developments subjectively called "range improvements" on grouse, not so much the wind development. That is why all designations on the species have been challenged for a long, long, time. Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment sauer Posted by sauer February 23, 2010, 9:06PM Funny, they are thriving in most other sagebrush western States. And, ODFW has a hunting season for them here. Kinda contradictory..... Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment stickaknife Posted by stickaknife February 23, 2010, 9:26PM trout, I see our resident expert on everything has returned. If the sage grouse is so endangered why is there a hunting season for them. Ranchers have made several improvements on their own private land and the government has made improvements on state and federal land. Cattle grazing has very little effect because these sage grouse hides out in the sage brush and cattle don't eat sage. Sage and especially juniper are taking over the range land. But, if you actually were old enough to get out on the range you would know that. Ride your bicycle out there some time or have your momma drive you since you aren't old enough to drive. Once again, your inane post shows your lack of real world knowledge and experience. Try turning off your computer and actually getting out in the real world. It might surprise you. Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment felidajoe Posted by felidajoe February 23, 2010, 9:42PM It's pretty simple - if you want more Grouse, raise the damn things in cages. I think we all know that it's not about the Grouse, it's all about locking up more land and taking away more rights. I don't think it's any secret that Fascists run the "environmental movement". Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment proguns Posted by proguns February 23, 2010, 10:10PM Spot On Comment! Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment wildlifetech Posted by Merrie February 24, 2010, 9:48PM @ felidajoe: the federal government is "locking up land?" Have you ever seen a "no trespassing" sign on BLM or FS land? Probably not...because they're *public lands.* On the other hand, look at all the "no trespassing," "no hunting," and "private property" signs on private ranches. If you look at a land ownership map from your local BLM, you'll see thousands of acres on which you can enjoy hiking, hunting, wildlife watching, what have you, without the fear of being shot by some self-righteous landowner that locks up his or her land because they believe they own it. @brewmaster: you string together disparate facts but where are the respected articles to back those chain reactions up? You also neglect to mention that during those thirties, forties, fifties humans decided that all predators were bad and used strychnine, other poisions, aerial gunning, and traps to wipe out thousands of wolves, bears, cougars, coyotes, etc. I recommend looking into the phrase "trophic cascade" and comparing balanced, predator-rich landscapes with those left to the prey species to destroy. Also, cattle ranchers get to use public lands for dirt cheap and leave it in increasingly poor condition (think cheatgrass and riparian area devastation). I've personally seen ponds teeming with aquatic life such as long-toed salamanders, giant predaceous waterbugs, pacific chorus frogs, and many other species that turn into methane-bubbling mud holes after the cattle have been in one area for far too long. I think it's time to start looking at the big picture and stop arguing for the sake of arguing. Can we all agree that we're dealing with finite resources here and that 6.6 billion people are capable of having a degenerative impact on the environment? Greater Sage-grouse may be one species, but if we give this species rudimentary protection, that means we're also setting new standards for sagebrush habitat management. And with that may come improved grazing practices, mindful construction of energy projects, and benefits to the many other species that share the sagebrush-steppe habitat with the grouse. Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment JoeMW223 Posted by KingCityJoe February 23, 2010, 9:49PM Here we go again......When are all the crazy people going to leave the state of Oregon? When we have nothing left but nut cases running the state's and federal government, someone please turn off the lights! Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment 2fly4pdx Posted by 2fly4pdx February 23, 2010, 9:52PM lets eat them all.. before more money is wasted .. keeping track of them. Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment drbonsky Posted by drbonsky February 23, 2010, 10:05PM Yep, the liberals are at it again. They'll use any and every trick in the book to keep YOU from enjoying the out of doors. And from us being able to acquire any form of energy. The biggest environmental problem of the past 20-30 years has been illegal immigration, not only to the deserts of Arizona, but to our suburban areas where the mere population gain has aggravated "urban sprawl" the left always complains about. Of course, since "diversity" is more important -- and Democratic voters -- illegal immigration is shelved (at least until this homophobic demographic starts voting Republican). Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment poledoc Posted by Laughing at You February 23, 2010, 10:05PM I am sorry I didn't read the whole article until now........now I see what the article is all about it was Bush's fault......and I bet Cheney waterboarded them too Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment proguns Posted by proguns February 23, 2010, 10:06PM Tastes Like Chicken! Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment Brewmaster69 Posted by brewmaster February 23, 2010, 10:23PM Trout, when Captain Fremont traveled through the area back in the early 1800's, he and his men nearly starved to death because of the lack of game. He had to eat some of his horses to survive. He found the native americans starving on the humbolt river near where Winnemmuca is today digging grubs out of mounds of debri and catching an occasional fish. There were few deer, antelope, elk or sage grouse! Then white man came to the west and brought agriculture and timber management and guess what? In the thirties, fourties, fifties, sixties, and seventies wildlife including sage grouse flourished. They seemed to prefer the conditions that resource management by farmers, ranchers and loggers created. Then in the 1980's professional federal resource managers (environmentalists) decided to remove the livestock from the range and quit managing the forests because it was good for some species or other. Now we have few deer, antelope, elk and sage grouse! Guess the only species that really prospers from the environmental movement is the left winged ding bat! Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment 67falcon Posted by 67falcon February 23, 2010, 11:11PM Guess the only species that really prospers from the environmental movement is the left winged ding bat! This is madness......screw the damn bird, and the enviros that want to cover them with love. Why not just quit, we all go on welfare with the mexicans that haven't taken what few jobs are left right now. Me with 1.2 million miles 1000 percent safe CDL record, good references, and last job I applied for, they asked me if I COULD, speak Spanish.. I asked why...OH THEY HIRE, TO BE DIVERSE. Well the logging is gone...did that..the fishing is gone...GET TOO SEA SICK, the trucking is going...last interview there were 126 apps for one job. RETIRE...WELFARE....NO MORE WORRIES...NO MORE ENVIO-WACKOS. Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment kevin1006 Posted by Dinoslayer February 24, 2010, 12:49AM I see the usual group of right wing nuts are out in force tonight with their ignorant comments on yet another subject they know NOTHING about.... and yet think they're really very brilliant. LOL!!! I get to laugh for two main reasons: One, the science is very clear on this subject, despite the above uttered nonsense claiming otherwise. The science will win, not nutters on the right that are still stuck in the 1880's. For instance hunting is allowed not because the science says it's OK, but because of politics and nothing more. Hunters are a powerful lobbying group, via the NRA and others. State Reps in Congress from western states, which won't allow a ban on hunting despite the science that calls for a moratorium until the species can be restored properly, have been delaying a listing a years. The presence of hunting is no indication of the species viability but of corruption in our government. The science is needed precisely so that facts can be used to destroy corrupt politics. Two, the American people are very much against the nutters on the right (see above nutter comments for reasons why), as every opinion poll shows clearly that the majority of Americans support stronger environmental laws and protections. And you ain't seen nothing yet simply because most people in this country still don't know the truth about cattle grazing, how destructive it is to land and water resources. With time more of the truth will leak into the people's knowledge base and then the end will come for public lands grazing. In other words wingnuts, YOU ARE A SMALL MINORITY.... loud, but small. Me thinks it's possible that Obama chose Salazar as interior secretary precisely because he's a cattle rancher that has come to the same conclusion as myself - having also grow up in western cattle ranching culture - that cattle don't belong on western deserts. Time will tell but I'm seeing signs this may be the case. How would you rationalize that away wingers, a cattle rancher closing lands to cattle ranching, eh? Stick... stop getting your information from Range Magazine.... it's nothing but a worthless rag that prints nothing but lies. Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment vonstern Posted by vonstern February 24, 2010, 5:11AM Maybe the wing nuts have lots of time since they are all unemployed and sitting around listeing to Rush all day. We need to not give up and let them make ALL the comments. Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment 67falcon Posted by 67falcon February 24, 2010, 8:18AM THERE ABOVE IS THE REASON..thousands are out of work in the industries that use to power Oregon, we must beg their "HOLEY FATHER", in DC for handouts to support schools and cops as the forests and ranching and fishing did once. YEAH RIGHT..BIRD LOVER...we have no commonsense, yours is in a thimble, ours you need a train to haul it. The end will come for you guys in time, and I DOUBT, you will enjoy it. Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment tjbbor7 Posted by tjbbor7 February 24, 2010, 4:56PM Dinoslayer, As supremely intelligent as you are, it is possible that you have found a way to post on here without using a computer or electricity. However, I would bet against that being the case. Is it possible that you have found a way to capture all of your self-produced hot air and convert it into electricity via some sort of personal-turbine contraption? Being perfect and efficient as you surely are, you wouldn't be using any of the electricity that is produced by our regional dams; thereby doing your part for the health of our beloved salmon runs. And, while sharing your wonderful knowledge and amazements with us, I am sure that you use a computer made of hemp, not plastic. Because, as you know, plastic is a petroleum product, and petroleum products cause environmental damage and threaten the existence of all species that you so justly love. I have just one question for you. How does such a perfect Luddite such as yourself manage to type on a keyboard made of hemp? Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment luddness Posted by luddness February 24, 2010, 5:59PM bor7, watch out who you call a luddite. And, if you're going to imply hypocracy to a nature lover who likely uses electricity and plastic, be prepared to wear the red letter yourself. Folks like you hunt the wildlife whose habitat we protect, over your objections. You drink the clean water and breathe the clean air that we protect. I'll bet you even use the wilderness areas that we protect despite your opposition. Who's the hypocrite now? Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment vonstern Posted by vonstern February 24, 2010, 5:08AM That's a cool looking bird. Maybe the environmentalists will finally understand the frustration of the loggers in the past if their wind farms get shut down due to a bird species. Guess it would only be fair. Inappropriate comment? Alert us. Reply to this comment | Post a new comment mammakatt Posted by mammakatt February 24, 2010, 5:52AM Having lived in the middle of sage brush flats in eastern Oregon, I can tell you that cattle are a problem. Fire is also a problem as sage and the bitter brush that grows in the same area burn very nicely. Fires that happen in that area can do a lot of damage to the plant life but put few houses in danger so the fires may destroy a lot of acreage before they are put out. Part of the problem is that the feds own so much land and lease it cheaply to cattle ranchers who turn their cattle lose on it every year and let them roam. Some grazing is OK as it keeps the grass down which reduces fires but excess grazing leaves no grass so cattle start to eat other plants. They also step on the plants and damage them that way. I doubt that the wind farms would bother the sage gross as they do not fly much. Listing them as threatened though would reduce the number of cattle in the area though. Apparently those ranchers make a lot of money since they have been able to block steps to reduce cattle on the federal lands. Inappropriate comment? Alert us. 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