WEA launches new greater sage grouse public information campaign

Listing the greater sage grouse as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act would discourage effective local and state conservation efforts while stifling economic growth and job creation, the Western Energy Alliance said in a new public education campaign.

“We are running this ad campaign to educate westerners about the greater sage grouse and the threats on the horizon to local economies,” said Jack R. Ekstrom, WEA chairman, as the program was launched on Aug. 4.

“Given the sizable range of the sage grouse’s habitat, a listing would be devastating across the West. Vast energy resources would be off limits and jobs lost,” Ekstrom said. He also is vice-president, corporate and government relations, with Whiting Petroleum Corp.

The campaign consists of online and radio ads running from August through October across the West including Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, WEA said. “A three-part video series contrasts collaborative, state-led conservation with misguided environmental activism and a one-size-fits-all federal approach,” it indicated.

The effort immediately drew fire from the Western Values Project, a Denver and Bozeman, Mont., group seeking to balance oil and gas development with recreation, tourism, and thriving local communities, according to its web site.

WEA’s ads use false analogies and baseless fear-mongering to divert attention from work that farmers, ranchers, industry, conservation groups, and sportsmen already are doing to strike that balance, WVP Executive Director Ross Lane said on Aug. 4.

Under a federal court settlement with environmental groups, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has until Sept, 30, 2015, to determine whether the bird, whose habitat encompasses parts of 11 western states, should be listed as endangered.

Oil and gas producers, state and local governments, and other stakeholders have been working to identify and mitigate environmental threats to the greater sage grouse and make such a listing unnecessary. Congressional Republicans from four Rocky Mountain states rallied behind legislation introduced May 22 that would delay the court-ordered decision for 10 years (OGJ Online, June 2, 2014).

The US Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service, meanwhile, expect to complete by summer’s end 15 final environmental impact statements and associated records of decision addressing effects of implementing conservation measures for the greater sage grouse on lands which they manage.

“Ideally, the agencies can address the threats posed to the species from the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms through our National Greater Sage Grouse Planning effort so we can eliminate the need to the list the species under the ESA,” BLM said on a page about the matter at its web site.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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