Sage Grouse and Gubernatorial Politics in Colorado

Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez debate over Western Slope issues at the Club 20 debates in Grand Junction Saturday night. photo by Lauren Glendenning/lglendenning@cmnm.org |

Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez debate over Western Slope issues at the Club 20 debates in Grand Junction Saturday night.
photo by Lauren Glendenning/lglendenning@cmnm.org |

Normally I pretty much tune out the hoopla around elections (truth is not usually found anywhere in the vicinity), but thought these two op-eds were of interest, in the sense that sage grouse has come out in gubernatorial politics. Probably would not happen with an endangered species in Texas, Florida, or New York, and maybe not California. These issues are a big thing to our people and hence to our governors. It could be about federal to private land ratios.. it could be due to people trying to make a living from natural resources compared to the proportion of people in the state as a whole. Or ????

Last Sunday there were these two op-eds in the Denver Post
yes Colorado could manage federal lands better
and no.

Here is the “no” one on sage grouse (written by a member of the Hickenlooper administration):

This doesn’t mean acquiescing to every federal decision. Colorado has the expertise and clout to push against the federal government when we disagree. The Hickenlooper administration has done so on numerous occasions, most recently in protecting sage grouse habitat.

Hmm. if it is really about following the law on ESA, then states shouldn’t be able to “push back” when they disagree.

Here is the “yes” one on sage grouse:

Need another example? The feds have now threatened to list the Gunnison sage grouse after years of hard work, compromise, and collaboration with farmers, ranchers, neighborhoods and local governments. It took nearly three years for Gov. John Hickenlooper to finally realize what a disaster the listing could be to all involved. He hired a friend of mine to run interference at a cost of additional hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay the efforts of bureaucrats who have no appreciation of our Western way of life or culture of self- reliance and responsibility for the land.

First, the fact that this is political this year raises the complex situation that we all understand to the simplistic “take over public lands by states” idea and that dog won’t hunt. That’s why we know it’s political and not real.

We have states winning lawsuits because they weren’t consulted the right way (California southern land management plans). We have courts supporting the feds not allowing Wyoming to be a cooperating agency on 2001 Roadless. BLM has (or did have) formal discussions with the governor’s staff on management plans. I sat in on these, a presentation to the DNR Executive Director (Harris Sherman at the time, small world!) during the period we had a joint FS/BLM management plan. The FS does not (last I looked, have such a formal process). Seems to me that if your interest is good public policy and not political theater, there are a great many choices of how to involve states in federal decision-making that have not been explored, or seem to be more or less random depending on agency history, case law, etc.

One Comment

  1. Montana’s version: http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/montana-house-candidates-in-final-push-to-nov-vote/article_ef26326a-5d28-11e4-9460-f7d1152a3547.html

    “Lewis has hit hard on the issue of transferring federally-managed public lands to the state in part because Zinke signed a pledge two years ago that included the idea and because the state’s Republican party has added it to their platform.

    “There’s a lot of bad ideas going around and this is the worst,” Lewis said, adding that he supports further protection for public lands.

    Zinke has said he no longer believes in transferring lands to the state and wants to make sure public lands are well-managed. He also wants to require that local governments have a say in their management.

    “I don’t want to sell public lands,” Zinke said, referring to an ad put out by Lewis that says that’s what will happen if lands are transferred to the state.”

    States can and do regularly “push back” on ESA. That’s only a problem if it pushes the listing agency to make a decision that’s not supported by science (wolverine?). (Then the politicians can blame the plaintiffs and the courts; a strategy that should be familiar to many here.) Legitimate ways for states to do this include doing their own science (Texas did this recently and held off a listing of a lizard, I think), and suing the listing agency (plains states are doing this now on the lesser prairie chicken).

    For Forest Service planning, the agency is required to provide opportunities for state participation (including cooperating agency status where appropriate), and to coordinate with land management planning efforts of other governments (26 CFR 219.4).

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