top of page

The $5.6 Billion Bird

Published Sept. 13, 2015 By Jim Urquhart and Elizabeth Chuck

Wild land firefighters put out hot spots on a fire that burned in greater sage grouse habitat in Tooele County, Utah, Aug 17.  Jim Urquhart/ for NBC News

The greater sage-grouse is a chubby bird, with a speckled body and stumpy feet. The male has a bright yellow sac on his chest that inflates like a life jacket, and a spiky tail that fans out when he's trying to woo a female.

That flashy mating routine has earned hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, but it hasn't stopped the population of the strange-looking bird from dwindling. The greater-sage grouse is in trouble.

Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide by Sept. 30 whether to add the bird to its endangered species list, and it is a decision with billion-dollar consequences. Declaring the bird endangered would virtually shut down huge swaths of land to other uses in the 11 states the bird currently inhabits.

That possibility has sparked a backlash from some Republicans and other pro-business proponents — who cite a well-regarded study that claims declaring the sage grouse as endangered would cost the U.S. more than $5.6 billion in annual economic output.

Energy development, mining, oil and gas drilling and some forms of ranching all pose threats to the land inhabited by the sage grouse. Coal, natural gas, crude oil, and beef industries, to name a few, all stand to take a huge hit if the land is deemed off-limits to them.  Read full article here


bottom of page