Male sage grouse strut during their annual mating dance.  Photo credit: National Parks Service

Male sage grouse strut during their annual mating dance. Photo credit: National Parks Service

There may be no other issue that illustrates capricious government overreach as well as the sage grouse issue here in Colorado.  Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife listed the Gunnison Sage Grouse as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Of course, who got the scoop on this bad news for Colorado?  None other than enviro spox Bruce Finley, allegedly a reporter for The Denver Post.  Here’s what Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife director, told The Denver Post in a meeting today:

“The things that you (in Colorado) have done are not for naught. We could, potentially, see a fast-track toward recovery.  There’s been a lot of good work done.”

Oddly enough, this article came out at 10:45 a.m.  Governor Hickenlooper, who presumably knew the decision had been made, spoke to a luncheon of oil and gas executives at around 11:45 a.m., according to our sources, at which he said he didn’t know the decision, thought it would be made this week and guessed that the Gunnison Sage Grouse would be listed as threatened.  Hickenlooper didn’t know this…?  Just pretending to not know…?  Why wasn’t he in the loop on this or at least honest with the folks he was speaking to – who will be greatly impacted?

This listing could chill oil and gas development in the state as additional regulations make it more difficult to operate here.  Governor John Hickenlooper has promised to sue the federal government to overturn the decision; however, his record on standing up for Colorado and Coloradans is not terribly impressive. From the Denver Business Journal coverage of the luncheon:

“We made a commitment, if ranchers, farmers and the oil and gas industry put in the work, and we see the success and benefits of that work, if the federal government is going to come in and overstep that work — we will oppose it.”

In case you don’t know the lengths to which Coloradans – as individuals – have gone to try to prevent such a listing, we ran this piece a while back.  But, here are two excerpts from an article by Lynn Bartels on the lengths Coloradans have gone to preserve the sage grouse.

“Blueprints have been changed to relocate driveways and even bathroom windows, where lights turned on early in the morning could disrupt the birds’ elaborate mating ritual.”

For example, landowners with a chunk of property often want to build in a remote spot, Cochran said. If they are in a sage grouse zone, he talks to them about moving the house closer to the road — an existing impact — to free up other spots on the land for the birds. If the landowner is going to erect a number of buildings, they must be in a cluster, not scattered. (the Peak emphasis)

Relocating bathroom windows so the birds could mate in peace.  Give us a break.  After losing by just two or three points this election, we hope Hickenlooper has turned over a new leaf and will start kicking some ass in Washington, D.C.  But, we wouldn’t bet the farm on it.  Unfortunately, some folks in Colorado have to.