Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2014

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Governor out of state this week

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons is in Washington, D.C., all this week, planning on meetings with Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne and other Interior Department officials, a spokesman said Monday.

Ben Kieckhefer said the governor wanted to discuss issues including public lands and sage grouse habitat with the Interior officials. He didn't have specifics on the planned discussions.

Gibbons' Washington, D.C., trip follows recent release of a study by an environmental group that wants the sage grouse listed as a threatened or endangered species. The report says much of the game bird's habitat is adversely affected by either livestock grazing, natural gas and oil development or invasive weeds.

The report by WildEarth Guardians singled out livestock grazing _ permitted on 91 percent of the bird's range _ as "the most ubiquitous use of sage grouse habitat on federal public land."

Critics of the report, including the head of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and others who oppose federal listing of the bird, said the study places too much emphasis on grazing and drilling while ignoring other threats to the species such as drought and West Nile virus.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a petition in 2005 to add the bird to the list of threatened or endangered species. But a judge in Idaho overturned the decision last December amid allegations Interior Department managers interfered with the science used in assessing the sage grouse and dozens of other endangered species.

State and federal wildlife officials have been assessing the status of the bird the past six months and USFWS is scheduled to issue a new listing decision in December.

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