SAW THIS ARTICLE IN CNS NEWS AND THOUGHT YOU'D LIKE TO SEE IT. NO WONDER AMERICA IS BANKRUPT. AND OBAMA SAYS HE NEEDS TO TAX MORE TO "BALANCE" OUR BUDGET. HERE IS ONE VERY GOOD REASON WHY THE DEBT CEILING SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN INCREASED. INSTEAD OF MORE SPENDING, SPENDING, SPENDING, WHY DON'T THEY TRY CUTTING, CUTTING, CUTTING?? NOWHERE IN THE CONSTITUTION DOES IT SAY THE GOVERNMENT HAS THE RIGHT TO TAX US TO SAVE A BIRD. AND REMEMBER, 40 CENTS OF EVERY ONE OF THE $112 MILLIONS DOLLARS IS BORROWED. A GREAT PRESENT FOR YOUR KIDS AND GRANDKIDS, DON'T YOU THINK? SOMETHING THEY WILL HAVE FOREVER!
Gov't Paying Farmers, Ranchers $112M to Protect Bird Too Numerous to be Threatened
Friday, August 19, 2011
By Tierney Smith
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is paying $112 million in tax money to farmers and ranchers in 11 Western states to restore the habitat of the Sage Grouse, a bird that has not been listed as either threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species law because the government says there are too many of them.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week that the USDA would dedicate $21.8 million to pay eligible ranchers and farmers in the state of Wyoming to encourage conservation practices that preserve the numbers of Sage Grouse.
That will bring to $112 million the total amount that the USDA has distributed over the last two years to eligible farmers and ranchers in 11 states as part of its Sage Grouse Initiative.
“Working with the Department of Interior, we are working together with our producers in the Western part of the United States to avoid having the Sage Grouse be placed on the endangered species list,” Vilsack said during a conference call briefing last Thursday.
“We’re doing this by working with landowners and identifying over 40 practices that will benefit the Sage Grouse, and encouraging landowners with the utilization of our conservation program to basically utilize a sweep of practices within those 40 identified practices,” he said. “In the past two years, we’ve committed $112 million to this Sage Grouse Initiative in 11 states, using five separate programs.”
The money is being paid to landowners through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Grassland Reserve Program.
Vilsack said the greater Sage Grouse has lost approximately half of its habitat in recent decades, but can still be found in portions of Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and California.
The government is providing subsidies to farmers in these states to cover a portion--up to 75 percent, in some cases--of the cost of implementing certain conservation practices, technologies and techniques.
According to Vilsack, ranchers will be paid to implement practices such as: using “sustainable grazing systems” to improve hiding cover for birds; moving "high risk" fences near breeding sites to reduce bird collisions and removing invasive trees from grasslands to allow “re-colonization of otherwise suitable sage-grouse habitat.”
Vilsack said that farmers, ranchers and producers “don’t have to spend quite as much of their own money with the partnership, and at the same time they get some degree of certainty” that they won’t be stuck with much higher costs and prohibitions if the bird is ever added to the endangered species list.
Environmental groups have been petitioning the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the past decade to list the Sage Grouse as a threatened or endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. However, despite these attempts, the federal government has continued to deny the Sage Grouse classification as a threatened or endangered species because there are too many of them.
“The Sage-Grouse population as a whole remains large enough and is distributed across such a large portion of the western United States that Fish and Wildlife Service biologists determined the needs of other species facing more immediate and severe threat of extinction must take priority for listing actions,” a 2010 Department of the Interior news release stated.
“Based on accumulated scientific data and new peer-reviewed information and analysis, the greater Sage-Grouse warrants the protection of the Endangered Species Act but that listing the species at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species first. The greater Sage-Grouse will be placed on the candidate list for future action, meaning the species would not receive statutory protection under the ESA and states would continue to be responsible for managing the bird.”
Moreover, most states do not treat the bird as if it were endangered. In fact, according to a 2010 notice in the Federal Register, state-regulated hunting of sage grouse is permitted in all but one state, Washington.
The agriculture secretary specifically distanced the current programs from past proposals, which had threatened to impose environmental sanctions on land-use if the grouse was placed on the Endangered Species Act--measures that land-use groups labelled as "draconian."
“These programs really are designed to focus on particular conservation practices and conservation techniques and technologies. They aren’t necessarily, like other programs, designed to limit, if you will, utilization of property,” Vilsack said.
Chuck Cushman, executive director of the American Land Rights Association, told CNSNews.com that land owners would welcome the USDA money, but not if it comes with strings attached or doesn't shield property owners from having to implement draconian conservation practices and technologies without government assistance in the future, if the sage-grouse is ever placed on the Endangered Species List.
“The problem is that the government always has difficulty delivering these kinds of services without hooks and trying to get control over the farmers in some way,” Cushman said. “But if they can work with the farmers in a genuine way and really help them and not impose a top down command-and-control will from Washington on them, then it’s a good thing.”
He added: “Any time you make land owners -- farmers -- partners rather than impose controls on them, the government is better off and the sage-grouse is better off and the country is better off, so we’ll hope that this works.”
Rick Krause, senior director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said as long as the effort remains voluntary, it has Farm Bureau endorsement.
“We support voluntary cooperative efforts such as this to preserve species that are either listed under the Endangered Species Act or are about to be listed,” Krause said. “It must be truly voluntary on the part of landowners. We believe cooperation is more effective than regulation in saving species from going extinct.”
The Interior Department and the Commerce Department are actually responsible for placing species on the Endangered Species List, but the USDA manages much of the federally protected land in the United States.
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