Greater Sage Grouse
Two new efforts to undermine ongoing planning efforts to conserve sage brush habitat and block protections that may be needed for the greater sage grouse have come out of Congress in the past two weeks.
First out is a standalone bill in the Senate and House that would delay any listing decision for six years – while also tossing out the work state agencies and the Bureau of Land Management have already done to come up with plans to protect sage grouse habitat. These plans – if done right – could actually prevent the need to list greater sage grouse as endangered or threatened. Ironically, the bill would actually prevent a “not warranted” decision from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is the outcome that those opposed to sage grouse conservation efforts are hoping for.
The second is a rider to the perennial Dept. of Defense authorizations bill (National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA). The rider, would delay any listing decisions for a full ten years while effectively turning over management of federal lands to the states.
Both of these measures undermine years of work by the BLM, state agencies, private landowners, and many others to try to protect not just the sage grouse but the sagebrush ecosystem itself, which is a powerful economic driver for Western state economies. By interrupting and restarting the planning process, both these efforts would perpetuate the uncertainty that has hung over the region for years. These efforts are nearly complete and should be allowed to play out. And if the recent decision on the bi-state subpopulation is any guide, there is good reason to be confident that final plans can work to achieve needed conservation.
And these efforts are more damaging than just simply kicking the can down the road. They would actually reverse management decisions made by the BLM and Forest Service if different from a state’s vision of what’s needed, effectively handing control to the states for happens on our public lands. While states have been working with federal agencies to craft the plans, they have not been planning to manage resources on federal lands and for good reason – our public lands should be managed by the agencies entrusted with their stewardship.
Both measures have been opposed by the Obama administration.