I’m not exactly sure how to interpret a recent press releaseÂ from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It speaks to the latest action taken on a North Dakota-nesting bird called a Sprague’s pipit. Here’s the first paragraph:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has determined that the Spragueâ€™s pipit, a small grassland bird, warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act (Act), but that listing the species under the Act is precluded by the need to address other listing actions of a higher priority. The Spragueâ€™s pipit will be classified as a candidate species until a listing proposal can be prepared. Candidate species do not receive statutory protection under the ESA and remain state-managed species.
Later in the release it mentions how this thing started. As usual, it was the threat of a lawsuit. In this instance it wasÂ by a group called WildEarth Guardians. In any case, the Service apparently took a look at the species’ status and saw some merit.
I am aware Sprague’s pipit can be tough to find in unless you are in good grassland habitat. In Cass County, you may as well forget it, it’s not here. A birder must go west to at least Barnes County (preferably Stutsman) until you have a legitimate chance ofÂ seeing this bird. Nonetheless, North Dakota is likely the best state for birders toÂ get theirÂ Sprague’s pipit.
The Service, however, fires this little shot across the bow:Â
Spragueâ€™s pipits require grassland habitat for both breeding and wintering. Native prairie is one of the most imperiled ecosystems in the world, with a conversion rate faster than that of the Amazon rainforest. In addition to direct conversion, prairie habitat is being fragmented, especially by energy (oil and gas and wind) development.
That sounds like a targeted attempt to put the kibosh on energy, perhaps even farming, in North Dakota, I don’t know. I would like to hear from western ND birders who have experience with the pipit in and around structures such as wind towers and oil pumps. I don’t know enough to offer an informed opinion. I know this though, I’m for both grasslands and energy. The hard part is dividing the limited pie I suppose.