Western Watersheds Project is again challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s listing determination for the greater sage grouse. On March 5, 2010, the Service determined that listing the greater sage grouse was warranted but precluded by higher priority species, thereby deeming the greater sage grouse a candidate species, which does not receive any protection under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"). This determination was a reversal of the Bush Administration’s 2005 determination that listing was not warranted for the species. As discussed in a previous post, Western Watersheds filed a complaint challenging the 2005 determination, and in 2007, the federal district court reversed the Service’s determination and remanded the matter to the Service.
The supplemental complaint (PDF) filed by Western Watersheds alleges, in part, that the Service’s justification for its warranted but precluded finding for the greater sage grouse is arbitrary and capricious because the Service has not made "expeditious progress" in listing species under the ESA. According to the supplemental complaint, between 1974 and 2000, the Service listed approximately 45 species per year, but between January 2001 and March 2005, the Service listed only 30 species in total, an average of seven species per year. The complaint also alleges that the Service only listed one species during fiscal year 2009.
As previously discussed, while a candidate species is not protected under the ESA, the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") has issued guidance (PDF) that may have impacts on wind and solar development as well as oil and gas leasing on BLM lands that impact the species.