Bill Introduced to Allow States to Retain Control of Sage Grouse Management
Legislation that would prevent the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the Greater Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act was introduced by Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in the Senate this week.
The Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act reassures state management of the bird, rather than a federal management plan and the ESA by allowing states to implement individual conservation and management plans for the recovery of great sage-grouse. Once a state has submitted a plan, the Secretary of the Interior would be required to share scientific data with states, assist states in crafting and implementation of the state’s plan, and must recognize these state plans for minimum of six years.
Timely passage of this legislation is critical. As the result of a court settlement with radical environmental groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an arbitrary deadline of September 2015 to make a listing decision on the Greater Sage Grouse.While Congress has prohibited any funds to be used to list the bird through the end of FY 2015, FWS is still required to make the decision. Under this timeline, there is little time to see if the efforts of states, ranchers, and private entities, which have already invested mass resources and countless hours to put management plans into place, is working. This legislation would take that arbitrary listing deadline out of the equation and give the state and private efforts time to succeed.
The state plans that are already in place focus on improving sage grouse habitat, through decisions based on-the-ground where impacts to the bird can be best dealt. Ranchers across the country in particular have consistently lived and operated in harmony with the sage grouse for many decades. It is a known fact that livestock grazing is the most cost effective and efficient method of removing fine fuel loads, such as grass, from the range thus preventing wildfire, which is one of the primary threats to the sage grouse.
The sage grouse is found in eleven states across the western half of the United States, including California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming and encompasses 186 million acres of public and private land. PLC and NCBA urge members of Congress to pass this legislation to ensure management remains with the states where the best decisions for the sage grouse can be made.