220px-Cory_Gardner,_Official_Portrait,_112th_CongressThe clock is ticking for officials in the West to come up with a strategy that would deflate the federal government’s plans of locking up nearly 17 million acres of private and public land from agriculture activity, energy development and outdoor recreation, because sage grouse.

The best plan on the table is U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s bill to delay the endangered species listing by six years, allowing states to continue with conservation plans that have already set aside more than four freaking million acres for the damn bird at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Normally, we would hate to put all our hopes on the U.S. Senate, which typically moves at the warp speed of a glacier and its greatest accomplishment under Harry Reid’s leadership is that they did nothing.

But within days of the introduction of Gardner’s measure in this GOP-led Senate, the full Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on the bill.

At this pace, Congress could actually accomplish something before the ESA hatchet is dropped on our necks in September.

The beauty of Gardner’s bill is that it is voluntary. It gives states the option to move forward with conservation plans where an enormous amount of energy and money has already been invested.

Or, state’s can opt into a federal plan to preserve the species and its grand sagebrush habitat worshiped by environmentalists who don’t actually know what it is.

“We’ve made tremendous progress and my legislation seeks to keep that momentum moving forward,” Gardner told the committee during today’s hearing. “This incredible cooperation among states, the federal agencies, landowners and stakeholders, will no doubt end, the moment that there is a listing of the sage grouse this September, or when the federal land use plans are released in May or June. Because, those land use plan amendments will largely ignore the efforts of the states.”

Some people (we’re looking at you enviros) seem to have forgotten that when Ken Salazar hailed over the Interior Department, he invited Western states to craft their own plans to manage the grouse, and states have spent years doing just that.

Gardner’s bill is certainly within keeping to that spirit.