Cheyenne, WY.   –   A new television and online campaign is calling on the U.S. Department of the Interior to honor a deal made by the federal government to preserve critical sage-grouse habitat.

Walt Gasson, a fourth-generation Wyomingite, lifelong hunter and conservationist, stars in the ad. He said if Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke truly believes that decisions are best made by people affected on the ground, hunters, ranchers and conservationists need a seat at the table.

“Let that agreement work,” Gasson said. “Whatever our roles are, let us continue to work at local levels. Let us not have the heavy hand of government interfere with that sort of kitchen table problem solving that works so well in the West.”

Sage-grouse populations have declined by as much as 95 percent from their historic levels. And a plan was put together by a host of stakeholders over a decade to keep the bird off the endangered species list. Zinke pulled those plans for review after industry groups complained that they overestimated the impacts from energy production.

Gasson said Wyoming was a leader in creating a plan to conserve sage-grouse habitat that also supported more than 350 other species, and kept the sagebrush sea open for multiple uses – including hunting, recreation, grazing and extraction. He said as a Wyomingite, he supports energy development because it’s essentially the state’s lifeblood.

“What I am against is decisions being made for one interest at the expense of all the other interests,” Gasson said. “And 40-plus years has convinced me that when one interest exerts dominance over all the others, my family loses.”
The ad campaign, produced by the National Wildlife Federation, will run in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Washington, D.C.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service