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spectr17
01-10-2003, 05:59 PM
January 09, 2003

Endangered listing rejected for game bird

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

RENO -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected a bid to use the Endangered Species Act to protect a small population of sage grouse found along the eastern Sierra.

The Institute for Wildlife Protection, which sought to protect the sage grouse, criticized the decision Wednesday and promised a court battle.

Federal officials said the institute's petition, filed in January 2001, "does not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing this species may be warranted."

More study is needed, the agency concluded, to determine if the birds along the Nevada-California line are genetically different from other sage grouse or isolated enough to be considered a "distinct population segment," a designation that would make them a likely candidate for listing.

Randy Webb, an ecologist with the institute in Eugene, Ore., called the finding "illegal and ridiculous."

"It is obviously political rather that scientific," he said, adding a lawsuit would be filed to try to force a listing.

In its petition, the institute argued that the Mono Basin population of the game bird has declined so precipitously in recent years that a federal listing is urgently needed to prevent extinction.

The institute contends the population is limited to "a few hundred" birds in eastern California's Mono County and Lyon County in western Nevada.