Letters from the West

Miners sue to keep sage grouse off endangered species list

As the Obama Administration and 11 western states are trying to put tighter a plan to meet a 2015 deadline to protect sage grouse so they won’t be listed under the Endangered Species Action, miners are going to court to try to change the playing field.

The American Exploration & Mining Association is filing lawsuit in federal District Court for the District of Nevada to set aside the settlement the US Fish and Wildlife Service reached in 2011 with environmental groups, which required the agency to decide whether to list the bird as a threatened or endangered species by September 30, 2015.

The miners join the Nevada Association of Counties, the Nevada Mineral Resources Alliance and F.I.M. Corp., a family-owned sheep ranching operation in western Nevada and eastern California. The say Fish and Wildlife must consider three options when deciding the status of species: listing as threatened or endangered is warranted; listing is not warranted; or listing is warranted but precluded by other species that are more imperiled and have a higher listing priority.

“The settlement is illegal because it eliminates the congressionally mandated warranted but precluded category for the Greater Sage Grouse and the other 289 species included in the settlement, sets arbitrary decision deadlines and frustrates the very purposes of the Endangered Species Act" said Laura Skaer, AEMA Executive Director. "We and the other co-plaintiffs are asking the court to set aside the illegal settlement and require USFWS to follow the law as enacted by Congress and evaluate whether the Greater Sage Grouse should remain a candidate species.”