Help From My Friends, Part 3: Agencies Ignoring Predation

by Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs on June 5, 2015 - 7:30am

Continuing on with the “Help From My Friends” series examining sage-grouse science that’s supposedly peer reviewed, it’s increasingly clear that federal agencies are pointing the finger at oil and natural gas as a major impact on the species and proposing very severe restrictions instead of facing all too real threats. 

As we’ve delved into the science and data behind the agencies’ assumptions through Freedom of Information Act and Data Quality Act challenges, we’ve noticed a seemingly willful effort to downplay the impacts of natural predators to the sage grouse.

With Friends Like That...

Predation is the most common cause of direct mortalities of the Greater Sage-Grouse (GrSG), with the common raven being the most abundant and greatest threat. Raven populations have increased an estimated 300% in the past 27 years in the United States with reports of a 1,500% increases within a 25-year period in some areas of the West.

The Department of Agriculture has observed that when ravens are controlled, GrSG nest success was significantly greater, at 73.6%, than the mean nest success of 42.6%. Yet, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is ignoring the body of literature on raven predation and instead pointing the finger at human activity, particularly oil and natural gas development.

With overwhelming data like that, why is FWS downplayed the impact of predation? Is it because it’s easier just to blame an industry than actually solve a problem itself? At any rate, the agency can count on its “friends” in a tight circle of scientist-activists who won’t point out something that’s inconvenient to it.

But if you’re a ground-dwelling bird facing daily threats from foxes, coyotes, and ravens, you might not appreciate FWS’ friends in low places who aren’t willing to tackle the real problems that threaten your existence.

More to the Story

More information is available on our DQA webpage and our previous posts at:

Part 1: Distorting the Peer Review Process

Part 2: Conflicts of Interest