In the spirit of enthusiasm with which we welcomed the news of one politician’s move in an interesting direction, we grouse with equal enthusiasm about the actions of another politician, this one inclined in the opposite direction of entrepreneurial conservation (click the image to go to the story):
The ouster of a Nevada wildlife official has fanned a debate over whether the sage grouse can best be kept off the Endangered Species List by protecting its habitat or by killing more of its predators.
Kenneth Mayer, who had been the director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and serves on regional and national committees that deal with sage grouse conservation, startled environmentalists and many Nevadans last week by announcing that Gov. Brian Sandoval had demanded his resignation.
The federal Fish and Wildlife Service is assessing sage brush populations throughout the country and is expected to decide by the end of 2015 whether the bird should be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Mr. Mayer maintained that it was his top priority to keep sage grouse populations healthy enough not to need federal protection. Many Nevadans fear that endangered status for the bird could mean restrictions on agriculture, development and energy production.
Mr. Mayer’s supporters had praised his ability to navigate the often-conflicting interests of ranchers, farmers, environmentalists, miners, energy developers and hunters in seeking to keep the sage grouse off the list. But critics said that his steps to protect its habitat went too far and risked hurting the economy.
In one of his last acts, Mr. Mayer’s department mapped nine million acres of remaining sagebrush ecosystems in Nevada and identified core areas of the birds’ most vital habitat, as well as places with sparse numbers of sage grouse that it considered better candidates for development.
“I just kept my nose down and tried to do the best thing for the State of Nevada and its wildlife because we need to keep the bird off the list and still provide many opportunities for energy developers,” Mr. Mayer said in a telephone interview. “As the director of a state wildlife agency, if you try to do the right thing and base things in science, you’re going to have your detractors.”
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