House act puts grouse close to ESA

RBC I On May 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I this “must-pass’”legislation that funds America’s military readiness was language that would force the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to abandon successful sage-grouse conservation plans.

These federal plans resulted from years of collaboration and millions of taxpayer dollars that successfully kept the sage grouse off the Endangered Species Act list.
“Sportsmen across the country are very disappointed with the House’s action to play politics with our national defense by inserting unrelated and detrimental language about sage-grouse conservation into the bill,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “If language contained in the House bill were to become law, it would throw into question decades of statutory precedent, scores of environmental laws and the subsequent legal decisions around those laws.
“This legislation is a Trojan horse for transferring public lands to the states and stands to have lasting repercussions beyond curtailing conservation efforts in sagebrush country,” he said.
Opponents of the 2015 conservation victory would rather see state-developed plans implemented instead. While many of the 11 Western state plans are good, some do not fully address threats to sage-grouse and need to be complimented by federal plans.
“Success for the greater sage-grouse was achieved in 2015 through the combination of strong conservation plans on federal public lands, coupled with state conservation plans and voluntary efforts from private landowners,” said Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute. “Future success depends heavily on immediate and consistent implementation of all these combined efforts.”
“We are disappointed to see this effort by the House to snatch defeat from the jaws of a victory that has already been achieved,” said Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever. “The 11 Western states, federal agencies and private landowners must continue with their unprecedented efforts to conserve and manage sage-grouse.”
Sportsmen’s organizations continue to communicate to lawmakers that the best thing they can do for sage-grouse is ensure that adequate funding goes toward implementation of federal plans, that necessary resources go to the states and that private lands conservation continues.
Undoing those conservation plans might be the best way to ensure a listing, (which is) bad news for just about everyone.
The Senate is expected to consider the NDAA, which currently does not include the detrimental sage-grouse provisions, sometime this week.
“This issue has no link to military readiness and it’s simply playing politics to suggest otherwise,” Fosburgh said. “Our community looks forward to working with the Senate to ensure that these provisions to undermine sage-grouse conservation are kept out of their version of the legislation.”