The specter of the sage grouse has haunted Baker County's ranching industry for more than a decade, as federal protection for the bird could restrict grazing on public lands. The latest development, though, might be cause for optimism rather than worry.
Yes, the federal government is proposing to list as threatened sage grouse populations. But those are in Nevada and California.
We find this encouraging because it shows that federal officials aren't necessarily bent on imposing one-size-fits-all strategies for protecting the species.
We hope, though, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is capable of even more geographic focus as it continues to consider whether to expand the protection of sage grouse to other states, including Oregon.
Baker County, though it is on the northern fringe of the bird's habitat in Oregon, doesn't have some of the threats that might imperil sage grouse in other states, including large-scale energy or housing developments.
In proposing to protect the bird in Nevada and California, federal officials also cited as threats the proliferation of juniper trees.
Baker County certainly has some of those.
But private landowners, along with technical and financial aid from agencies such as the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the county's soil and water conservation districts, have done and continue to do much to reduce the spread of juniper.
We urge the feds to consider the complete, and local, picture when deciding whether to list the sage grouse as threatened in Baker County.