Western Coalition Challenges Agency Science on Greater Sage-Grouse

March 18, 2015

Extensively documents the selective, false and biased information used by federal agencies

  • Coalition of western counties and stakeholders challenges BLM, FWS and USGS science
  • Three Data Quality Act challenges provide extensive legal and scientific information on the poor quality of federal agency data
  • Major problems with agency science include bias, selectivity, lack of population data, and conflicts of interest

DENVER – A coalition of western counties and ranching, mining, and energy associations filed three Data Quality Act challenges to the information that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are using to make public lands and Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing decisions for the Greater Sage-Grouse. The coalition is challenging the reports the agencies are using to justify top-down restrictive measures that will damage western communities in sage-grouse habitat while discouraging more effective state and local conservation efforts.

The coalition consists of Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, and Rio Blanco counties in Colorado; Carter, Fallon, Fergus,  McCone, Musselshell, Phillips, Prairie, Toole, Richland, and Yellowstone counties in Montana; Elko and Eureka counties in Nevada; Uintah County in Utah; American Exploration & Mining Association; Colorado Mining Association; Colorado Wool Growers Association; Independent Petroleum Association of America; International Association of Drilling Contractors; Montana Association of Oil, Gas & Coal Counties; Montana Petroleum Association; Nevada Mining Association; Petroleum Association of Wyoming; Public Lands Council; Utah Multiple Use Coalition; and Western Energy Alliance.

Coalition members support state, local and private sage-grouse conservation efforts over the one-size-fits-all measures being imposed by the federal agencies. The agencies are justifying their top-down approach with selective and faulty information that ignores a large body of scientific literature on the species. The states are much better suited, with their expertise as wildlife managers, to protect the sage grouse. Many studies show how misguided federal management will harm the sage grouse and the 11 states it inhabits.

The legal and scientific team, headed by attorney Kent Holsinger of Holsinger Law, LLC, provides exhaustive information on the flaws in the agency science. The three challenges document the extreme bias that results when agencies willfully use incomplete scientific information to support a false narrative that the federal government knows best how to conserve the sage grouse and manage the West.

“We’ve documented real issues with transparency and scientific integrity,” said Holsinger. “It’s unacceptable that we’ve had to resort to multiple lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act and other maneuvers to obtain basic scientific information that should have already been provided to the public. By carefully analyzing that data, the coalition found extensive flaws in the agencies’ science, and demonstrated how they exaggerate impacts from human activities while ignoring real threats like predation as well as natural fluctuations. The steadfast reliance and perpetuation of flawed information reveals these agencies aren’t as much interested in sage-grouse conservation as they are in controlling our economy and western way of life.”

“The coalition we have joined together has been working individually and together to conserve sage-grouse in a more effective manner than a federal ESA listing,” added Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for Western Energy Alliance. “Despite the positive work of states, counties, ranchers, industries and other stakeholders, the federal government is pursuing a top-down strategy which is not as effective as are real, on-the-ground western  solutions. The agencies have been ignoring that work while not being transparent about their actions. We have repeatedly pointed out the flaws in their ‘science,’ but rather than taking that input constructively, they have persisted with incomplete and erroneous information. By formally filing a challenge, we hope to show that we are serious about preventing poor land use and listing decisions based on bad information.”

The full Data Quality Act challenges are available here and an Executive Summary is available here.