Lawmaker Seeks Endangered Species Listing Exemption for Utah

(KCPW News) A resolution urging the US Fish and Wildlife Service to exempt or exclude private property from being designated critical habitat for the Gunnison Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act passed out of committee Tuesday morning.

Republican representative Michael Noel, of Kanab, says that the potential federal listing of the bird poses a threat to private property owners in San Juan County.

“San Juan County ranchers and farmers raised and sold $10,299,000 in crop and livestock commodities – this could greatly impact that,” Noel said. “There’s also high potential for oil and gas development and also minerals such as potash and phosphate mines and stuff out there which could be in the millions of dollars worth of revenues, not only to private land owners but also to Trust Lands,” he added.

The Gunnison Sage Grouse is already considered Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and has been proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act, by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis of Salt Lake said he would vote in favor of Noel’s resolution because of language that seems to suggest greater collaboration with federal agencies.

“I like the part in the resolution that talks about and conciliation and negotiation and working things out and recognizing that there are things that need to be protected and being certainly sensible to Utahns and their economic interests,” he said.

“But I would hope that as this joint resolution is interpreted it would be seen as much as an olive branch as anything else.”

The resolution passed unanimously out of the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Standing Committee and will next be heard on the Senate floor.

The move comes just days after members of Utah’s congressional delegation in Washington – including Republicans Mike Lee, Orrin Hatch and Jason Chaffetz, and Democrat Jim Matheson, expressed concerns about the proposed listing in a letter to Fish and Wildlife Service officials.