Why is Congress Hijacking a National Defense Bill to Attack Sage-Grouse Conservation?

Political games undermine years of extensive local collaboration with conservationists, ranchers, the energy industry, and other stakeholders.

Some in Congress are once again playing political games with the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill that lays out the nation’s defense spending priorities.

They are trying to include a “rider” in the bill that would block the Interior Department from making an Endangered Species Act determination on the greater sage-grouse for ten years. This would undermine cooperative federal and state agreements and tie the hands of people working on the ground to protect sage-grouse habitat. It would threaten implementation of sage-grouse conservation plans developed by states and the federal government in 2015 after years of extensive local collaboration with conservationists, ranchers, the energy industry, and other stakeholders.

In response to this effort to hijack the national defense bill, the Montana Wildlife Federation joined our colleagues from eight other Western states in a letter to Congress to remove this rider, noting that the Defense Department has clearly stated that the 2015 sage-grouse conservation plans would not impact military training, operations, or readiness and the provision is not needed.

The anti-sage-grouse rider is unrelated to military readiness and unnecessarily complicates both sage-grouse conservation and our national defense.  Congress should move the national defense bill forward without the sage-grouse rider.  This will ensure our national defense while allowing conservation to move forward. Guaranteeing functional sage-grouse habitat across the West, a strong outdoor economy, and provide stability to industry and local ranching communities.

 

John Bradley, MWF, Eastern Montana Field Representative