Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert kicked off a two-day sage grouse summit Tuesday, bringing together hundreds of people throughout the state who have been working nearly two decades to restore the imperiled bird’s habitat.
The sage grouse’s potential addition to the endangered species list is a problem of epic economic consequences to states in the West, with Herbert explaining that the impact in lost economic development in Utah tops $41 billion for the oil and gas industry alone.
“The negative impacts are not acceptable to me and should not be acceptable to anyone here,” Herbert told the crowd.
The event at the Utah Department of Natural Resources’ auditorium is actually a precursor to a national summit that will be held in Salt Lake City this fall.
Sage grouse, considered an “indicator” species that is a barometer for the health of an entire ecosystem, has come under increasing threat due to habitat fragmentation, expansive wildfires, urban encroachment, and energy development in Utah and the 10 other Western states where it occurs.