Photos by Bob Wick, BLM. Sage Grouse.
Yesterday the Senate voted to send the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the White House for President Obama’s signature. In a victory for conservationists, ranchers, and hunters, the NDAA left out destructive language that would undermine existing Greater Sage-Grouse land-management plans. The Defense Bill previously had language that would have allowed states to roll back the federal sage-grouse conservation plans and would have prevented the Department of the Interior from changing the bird’s status for ten years. This extreme provision would have ended years of bipartisan cooperation between federal, state and private interests working to keep the bird and its sagebrush habitat healthy enough to avoid listing under the Endangered Species Act.
This latest victory for the bird comes after declines in historic sage grouse populations and habitat led to the bird’s consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act. In late 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that an ESA listing for the grouse was “not warranted.” The ruling was based on local conservation efforts that were taking place and the continued implementation of federal resource management plans by the BLM that advance the species’ recovery and improve sage grouse habitat.
The millions of acres of sagebrush steppe that the sage grouse relies upon also provide habitat for more than 350 species of fish and wildlife, including mule deer, elk, and pronghorn antelope. Healthy and functioning sage-grouse habitat across the West fuels our outdoor economy, while providing stability to local ranching communities.
With the NDAA moving forward without the negative sage grouse rider attached, it’s time for hunters and anglers, ranchers and farmers, state and federal land managers, and all who value the West need to roll up our sleeves and work together to protect this unique western landscape.
John Bradley is Montana Wildlife Federation’s Eastern Field Rep.
For more information, check out these articles.
Western Sportsmen: Drop Sage-Grouse Rider From Defense Bill