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Legislature grouses about sage grouse habitat

Published March 8, 2013 9:23 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With some grousing about federal management of endangered species, lawmakers finalized a resolution urging federal officials not to designate any private land in San Juan County as protected habitat for the Gunnison sage grouse.

The Senate voted 20-2 to pass HCR7, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature. The House previously passed it 64-3.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, notes that the federal government has proposed to designate 145,500 acres in San Juan County as critical habitat for the bird — and said 95 percent of it is on privately owned land.

It says that it is ironic since the vast majority of land there is public and controlled by the federal government.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, the Senate sponsor of the resolution, said proposed listing would hurt ranching and mining in the area.

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman earlier told lawmakers that about 500 San Juan property owners could miss out on a combined $10 million in oil and gas leasing if the sage grouse is listed as endangered, because oil companies fear it would prevent wells on the land.

Conservationists, though, argue the federal Endangered Species Act is flexible enough to balance property rights with species recovery when landowners and local officials work within the law's framework.

Lee Davidson