WSJ Editorial: Two Birds Threaten US Energy Growth

Image: WSJ Editorial: Two Birds Threaten US Energy Growth Sage grouse, left, and prairie chicken

Wednesday, 12 Mar 2014 07:25 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Green activists have used lawsuits and the threat of litigation to pressure the federal government into listing various species as endangered, causing severe damage to the economy, The Wall Street Journal editorialized.

Now green groups are lobbying the Obama administration to declare two range birds — the greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken — endangered species. The birds inhabit both private and government property.

More than 757 new species could be added to the endangered species list by 2018. That would enable the Interior Department to impose "Draconian" land use regulations, according to the editorial.

"The prairie chicken sits atop Texas's Permian Basin oil bonanza, and the sage grouse is near the Bakken Shale in North Dakota," the Journal said.

Designating the birds endangered could mean that private property would fall under land use rules or come under acquisition thereby limiting oil drilling across an enormous Western habitat. The result would be "one of the largest federal land grabs in modern times," according to the Journal editorial.

The lesser prairie chicken inhabits five Western prairie states; the sage grouse can be found in 11 Western states. Declaring these areas protected and the species endangered could cause extreme damage to human beings and the local economy, the Journal said.

As is, almost 50 percent of land west of the Mississippi River is under federal government jurisdiction, according to the Journal.

Democrats in the affected areas are lobbying the White House to find alternative ways to protect the birds.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that listing the grouse as endangered "will have major ramifications on rural life and the economies in Nevada and throughout the West."

Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper also wants to keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered list because of the potential economic fallout. He said the science does not justify listing the bird and alternatives can be found. Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has similarly been lobbying the Department of Interior to go slow.

The Journal argues that Democrats need to also publicly come out against the "green strategy of using lawsuits and regulation to kill jobs and economic development."

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