Sandoval forms sage grouse advisory panel

CARSON CITY -- Gov. Brian Sandoval is stepping up Nevada's efforts to stave off an endangered species listing for sage grouse and show the federal government that creating jobs and opportunities can co-exist with protection of the bird.

Sandoval last week signed an executive order establishing a sage grouse advisory committee. He charged the nine-person panel -- whose members have not yet been named -- to recommend a plan by July 31.

In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined sage grouse deserved federal protection, but other species were higher priorities. A legal settlement now gives the agency until 2015 to decide the bird's status: threatened or endangered or not in need of federal protection.

Sandoval spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner said it is hoped that by taking state initiative to protect the bird, whose numbers have fallen in the past century, federal intervention can be avoided.

"It is clear that the status quo will not prevent the sage grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act," Kinner said in an email, adding Sandoval thinks Nevada can't wait until 2015 to take action.