The Wall Street Journal reports that the Interior Department is contemplating what they call “one of the largest land grabs of modern times.” In conjunction with environmental groups, they want to expand the Endangered Species Act by adding 757 new species to the protected list, including the greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken. According to the Journal, the move would have great economic impact, and it would affect private as well as public property.
Interior is expected to decide sometime this month whether to list the lesser prairie chicken, which inhabits five western prairie states, as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Meantime, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service are considering land-use amendments to protect the greater sage grouse, which would lay the groundwork for an ESA listing next year.
The sage grouse is found in 11 western states—California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Most of the areas affected are federal lands routinely used for farming, ranching, mining, road building, water projects and oil and gas drilling.
However, much of the prairie chicken population and some sage grouse are on private property that could become subject to some of the most invasive private land-use rules and property acquisitions in the history of the protected-species law. The birds’ habitat includes an estimated 50 million to 100 million acres of federal and private land, according to the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Environmental groups have won victories by using a strategy called “sue and settle” under which groups propose species for protected status and then sue the federal government, which settles the lawsuit on terms favorable to the greens rather than fight. These settlements typically bypass a thorough review of the scientific evidence and exclude affected parties, such as industry and local communities.
Read the whole thing if you can, there’s much more. This would end drilling in many oil rich areas. It would be so bad many Democrats are against it, but who knows if their opposition will be enough to stop the administration from wrecking the economy to please the environmental radicals.
Image via Wikipedia where the greater sage grouse is listed as being “near threatened” which is just above “least concern.”