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Western Governors Meet for Tough Topics

(06/09/14) CARSON CITY, Nev. - Water scarcity, extreme weather, oil and gas development and endangered species are among the tough topics at the Western Governors' Association meeting this week in Colorado Springs.

According to Land Tawney, executive director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, declining populations of greater sage-grouse are intertwined with those issues. He said he believes keeping the species off the Endangered Species List can be accomplished. His group's new research shows that Wyoming got it right, with everyone sitting at the table to hash out pathways to move forward.

"Wyoming slowed down the decline," Tawney said. "They've given certainty to both oil and gas and to hunters and anglers that we can actually move forward with development and conserving habitat, and ultimately, the greater sage-grouse."

A possible listing has sparked concerns not just for conservation and sportsmen's groups, but for oil and gas developers, farmers and ranchers because it could result in conservation measures without much local input, and harm industries.

Tawney said their report shows wildlife and development can both happen, but there has to be planning and it needs to start now. Along with the understanding that there has to be give-and-take, as happened in Wyoming.

"I don't think it was probably perfect for anybody," Tawney said. "They hammered out what was important. Everybody's playing by the same rules."

The greater sage-grouse is found in 11 Western states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide by next year whether to list the species under the Endangered Species Act.

Read the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers report, Conserving Greater Sage-Grouse: A Sportsmen's Priority.