The Battle of the Sage Grouse

What is a sage grouse? A sage grouse is a tiny, ground-dwelling bird that lives in the Midwest United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FSW) has announced a plan to protect the bird’s habitat, being that it is a threatened species. The plan would restrict or prohibit oil and natural gas drilling, mining activities, and ranching in Western states in an area the size of Texas.

What the Obama administration doesn’t seem to realize is that banning all commercial activity from an area does not magically make a species begin to repopulate over time. In order for the sage grouse to begin to make a comeback, FSW officials need to actively go into the species’ habitat and help it repopulate. This means working to ensure the animals are mating, and that the young are protected. This could mean preventing the effects that predators have on the birds.

When considering environmental measures, the government has to take into consideration the effect it could have on humans’ immediate lives through a cost benefit analysis. The Supreme Court just mandated that in a ruling handed to the EPA in June. So, let’s take a look at the numbers. Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for the Colorado-based Western Energy Alliance, said that “The economic impact of sage-grouse restrictions on just the oil and natural gas industry will be between 9,170 and 18,250 jobs and $2.4 billion and $4.8 billion in annual economic impact across Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.”

These numbers don’t even include all the states affected. What about the negative impact the regulations could have on other industries, jobs, and livelihoods?

Once again, it seems that rather than taking a scalpel to an environmental problem, the government is taking a sledgehammer. And this time the hammer is the size of Texas.