Western Watersheds Project has been advocating for Endangered Species Protection for Greater sage-grouse since the very first petition to list the species was filed by Craig Dremann in 2002. We began our legal efforts in support of that position in 2004, and our organization has remained at the forefront of fighting for this iconic western bird. From listing litigation, to challenging site-specific grazing decisions, to fighting bad legislation, to raising the species’ profile to a national level, Western Watersheds Project is one of the sage-grouse’s staunchest allies.
In 2015, when the Obama Administration declined to provide Endangered Species Act status to greater sage-grouse, WWP and our allies and attorneys at Advocates for the West took a hard look at the plans this decision was based on and went to court. We challenged the Obama-era plans as inconsistent with the scientific evidence defining the adequate level of protection the birds need from livestock grazing, energy development, noise, vegetation treatments, and other human disturbance. We stood apart from the bigger crowd that was optimistic that the plans would be implemented in the most meaningful ways; WWP could see the loopholes in the language that offered an opportunity for public lands habitat to be destroyed.
And sure enough, as soon as the Trump Administration came into office, both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service started considering how to most efficiently dismantle the protections the 2015 plans contained. WWP again watchdogged these efforts, providing reams of substantive comments and scientific input on the proposed changes and fighting the weakened protections for sage-grouse and its habitat.
This week, WWP went back to court (together with Advocates for the West, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, and Prairie Hills Audubon) to fight the Trump Administration’s recently approved land use plan amendments that enshrine energy dominance and industry access to our public lands. We filed an amended complaint to add to the lawsuit over the 2015 plans showing that the Trump plans took the earlier protections from “too weak” to “far worse.” And we let Judge Winmill know that sage-grouse are still suffering from habitat destruction and their populations are plummeting in at least four western states.
The new amended complaint is online here. We’re proud of the hard work our staff has done to ensure this smart, strategic litigation will succeed.