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Health, Science & Environment

Morgan Council Chair: Study Sage Grouse Issue

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Male sage grouse on a lek in Morgan County, Utah

  Tuesday's Morgan County Council meeting has been getting national attention because of a land-use planning question that could impact the sage grouse.  But the council may put off a vote on the issue to allow for further study.

At the last meeting two weeks ago, the Morgan County council split 3 to 3 on the question of whether to change the land use designation on a 27-hundred acre parcel near East Canyon Reservoir.  The area includes a sage grouse lek, where the birds mate and nest in the spring.

Council chair Logan Wilde missed the last meeting, and his vote could break the tie.  But he says it’s time to step back and look at all the issues involved, including protecting the sage grouse.

Wilde tells KUER, “I think by going and reviewing some of their options in a public setting where public input could be addressed, I think it would be a win-win for the public, for the sage grouse, and for the private landowner.”

Allison Jones is the director of the Wild Utah Project. She says the whole country is watching what Utah does with its state plan for protecting the sage grouse.  Jones says allowing development in this area could lead to new protections for the birds under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“If other states are making the wrong decisions and failing the first tests of their state plans," Jones says, "this is all the more reason for the Fish and Wildlife Service to list this species and enact the safety net of the ESA next year.”

Both sides in the controversy have said they’re open to the idea of a conservation easement, which would compensate the property owners to for protecting the sage grouse habitat.

If they put off a vote this time, Wilde says the council could take up the issue again at its first meeting in November.

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