Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the “USFWS” or the “Service”) published its 12-month findings on three petitions to list the greater sage grouse as threatened or endangered under the ESA. The Service determined that listing the species is warranted under the ESA, but precluded at this time due to budget constraints and higher priority candidate species.
Despite the reprieve from an immediate ESA listing, developers – including energy developers – still confront a variety of federal, state, and local regulatory measures in the West related to sage grouse protection. The majority of regulatory restrictions on development activities will be dictated by: 1) the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), the agency responsible for managing over 50% of sage grouse habitat; and 2) to some extent, the affected states . . .
. . . As a “candidate” species, the sage grouse is not provided any protection under the ESA, but the Service will review the species’ status annually, with the expectation of listing it in the future if its status does not improve. However, based on the Service's ranking of the species, the likelihood of listing anytime soon is small, and the sage grouse will remain near the end of a line of approximately 250 candidate species awaiting listing. . .