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Land | Environment

Can Scientists And State Policymakers Get It Right When It Comes To Protecting The Sage Grouse?

A female Sage Grouse nesting under sagebush inside the White Cloud Wilderness area in Idaho.

A female Sage Grouse nesting under sagebush inside the White Cloud Wilderness area in Idaho.

Aaron Kunz


BOISE, Idaho — A forum coming up in Idaho will explore the relationship between science and policymaking when it comes to the sage grouse, a bird that’s in trouble throughout the West.

The James A. & Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research will tackle that topic Friday at the Idaho Capitol in Boise.

Idaho, Oregon, Washington and other western states are looking for ways to recover the plunging population of sage grouse — and in many of these states, the goal is to come up with their own solutions before the federal government intervenes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said it could list the bird next year as a protected species under the Endangered Species Act. Such a listing could restrict how rangelands in the West are used for livestock grazing, recreation such as ATV riding, energy development and other activities.

Montana is one of the states where political leaders are hoping to head off a federal protection plan by adopting its own sage grouse recovery strategy. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock this month signed an executive order that restricts activities certain activities that could impact grouse habitat.

Idaho policymakers would like to take a similar approach — one of the reasons for Friday’s forum, titled “Building Trust in Science: Is Idaho Getting it Right with Sage Grouse?” The event will explore how the relationship between scientists and policymakers is working as the state develops a management plan for western sage grouse. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider Idaho’s plan along with those from ten other western states as it deliberates on whether to list the sage grouse as endangered.

Friday’s McClure Forum will be at 7 p.m. at the capitol building’s Lincoln Auditorium. Idaho Public Television host and EarthFix producer Aaron Kunz will moderate the discussion. It will be recorded and will air Oct. 8 on Idaho Public Television.

Watch the event Friday night at 7pm MTN/6pm Pac live here.

Aaron Kunz