Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Commissioners ask for draft of a notice of intent to sue federal government

The Mesa County Commissioners today directed County Attorney Patrick Coleman to draft a notice of intent to sue the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The move aligns Mesa County with the State of Colorado and other local governments in efforts to protest the federal government's decision to list the Gunnison sage grouse as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The State of Colorado has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Fish and Wildlife Service and certain federal officials.

Among the concerns with the December 2014 decision to list the Gunnison sage grouse as a threatened species are potential impacts to energy development and agriculture in areas of the state where the bird lives. The Gunnison sage grouse primarily is found in southwestern and central Colorado, as well as in northeast Utah.

A potential lawsuit would make three general arguments:

  1. Listing the Gunnison sage grouse as threatened is unnecessary because of the extensive successful cooperative efforts of local, state and federal government officials and private landowners to protect the bird.
  2. The best science indicates the Gunnison sage grouse is not threatened.
  3. More than 1.4 million acres in Colorado and Utah have been designated "critical habitat" for the Gunnison sage grouse, contrary to federal law.

The State of Colorado asserts its conservation efforts have helped increase numbers of the bird.

Mesa County's Commissioners directed the county attorney to draft the notice of intent to sue to show their support for the state's efforts. Plus, filing a notice of intent to sue has to happen before the Mesa County Board of Commissioners could sue the federal government.

The Commissioners agreed: "This issue affects Mesa County."

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