Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Friday, August 17, 2007

I hope the President's Executive Order includes Sage Grouse and Prairie Chickens

President Bush just signed Executive Order: Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation :

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Purpose. The purpose of this order is to direct Federal agencies that have programs and activities that have a measurable effect on public land management, outdoor recreation, and wildlife management, including the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting opportunities and the management of game species and their habitat.

(Read the entire executive order here.)
Do you think this was intended to help protect grasslands and sagebrush habitat for the Sage Grouse and Greater and Lesser Prairie-Chickens? I sure hope so. Julie MacDonald, the administration's political appointee attack dog who ran roughshod over US Fish and Wildlife Service scientists, lost her job in May, but at this point I don't know who was taking her place or whether things would improve. According to a May 2, 2007 New York Times article by Felicity Barringer:

Among other actions that drew the ire of wildlife biologists and lawyers, Ms. MacDonald had heavily edited biologists' reports on sage grouse, a species that in the end was not placed on the threatened or endangered lists. Their habitat overlaps with vast parts of the Rocky Mountain West, where oil and gas drilling and cattle ranching are prevalent; listing the grouse as endangered or threatened could have curbed those industries' access to federal lands.

In another case in the inspector general's report, Ms. MacDonald demanded that scientists reduce the nesting range for the Southwest willow flycatcher to a radius of 1.8 miles, from a 2.1-miles, so it would not cross into California, where her husband has a ranch.

She also gave internal agency documents to industry lawyers and a lawyer from the Pacific Legal Foundation, all of whom frequently filed suit against the Interior Department over endangered species decisions.

Can things be worse than that?