Counties, associations challenge DOI’s Greater Sage Grouse tactics

A coalition of national and regional oil, gas, coal, and mining associations and county governments in four Rocky Mountain states charged three US Department of the Interior agencies with using bad science and poor information to make public lands and Endangered Species Act listing decisions for the Greater Sage Grouse.

A coalition of national and regional oil, gas, coal, and mining associations and county governments in four Rocky Mountain states charged three US Department of the Interior agencies with using bad science and poor information to make public lands and Endangered Species Act listing decisions for the Greater Sage Grouse.

The US Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Geological Survey are using selective and questionable data to justify top-down restrictive measures that will damage communities within the bird’s 11-state habitat while discouraging more effective state and local conservation efforts, the group said in three Mar. 18 challenges filed under the Data Quality Act.

“We’ve documented real issues with transparency and scientific integrity,” said Kent Holsinger of Holsinger Law LLC, who headed the group’s legal and scientific team. “It’s unacceptable that we’ve had to resort to multiple lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act and other maneuvers to obtain basic scientific information that should have already been provided to the public.

Holsinger noted that by carefully analyzing that data, the team found extensive flaws in the agencies’ science, and demonstrated how they exaggerate impacts from human activities while ignoring real threats like predation as well as natural fluctuations.

“The steadfast reliance and perpetuation of flawed information reveals these agencies aren’t as much interested in sage-grouse conservation as they are in controlling our economy and western way of life,” Holsinger said.

Ten county governments in Montana, six in Colorado, two in Nevada, and one in Utah are coalition members. Oil and gas participants include the Independent Petroleum Association of America, International Association of Drilling Contractors, Montana Petroleum Association, Petroleum Association of Wyoming, and Western Energy Alliance.

Coalition members have been working individually and together to conserve the Greater Sage Grouse more effectively than a federal Endangered Species Act designation would, said Kathleen Sgamma, WEA vice-president of government and public affairs.

“The agencies have been ignoring that work while not being transparent about their actions,” Sgamma said. “We have repeatedly pointed out the flaws in their ‘science,’ but rather than taking that input constructively, they have persisted with incomplete and erroneous information. By formally filing these challenges, we hope to show that we are serious about preventing poor land use and listing decisions based on bad information.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

More in Government