Thursday, United States Representatives Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) introduced legislation to the House, along with Senator Enzi's (R-Wyo.) companion legislation in the Senate, that would prohibit the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the Greater or Gunnison Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 where a state management plan is in place.
The Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act, will allow for the protection of Sage Grouse habitat while balancing the needs of western citizens and their economies. If signed into law, this bill would require the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to approve or disapprove of a state sage grouse management plan 120 days after it is submitted.
Sage Grouse are found in 11 states across the western United States and their habitat encompasses 186 million acres of both federal and private land. Public Lands Council President Brice Lee said a listing would be devastating leading to decreased agricultural production, outdoor recreation, and renewable and traditional forms of energy development, severely limiting multiple use on public lands.
"State and private landowners have already spent millions of dollars and a considerable amount of time developing management plans, improving habitat, and implementing conservation measures," said Lee, a Colorado Rancher. "Listing of the sage grouse under the ESA would undo all of this work and would have a negative impact not only on ranchers on both private and public lands but on the sage grouse and its habitat.
"Passage of this common-sense legislation would take away the arbitrary listing deadline and would allow private and state entities time to make the best decisions for the bird, their state, and the rural communities that depend on ranching," said Lee.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President and Texas cattleman Bob McCan said this legislation is a step in the right direction to take wildlife management out of the hands of Washington D.C., bureaucrats and ensure it stays with local and state offices on the ground.
"Livestock grazing and wildlife habitat conservation are complimentary efforts," said McCan, "Ranchers care for the land and the natural resources their livelihoods depend on. The cattle and sage grouse benefit more from native grass and lush forage than endless lawsuits filed by special interest groups."
As a result of a court settlement with radical environmental groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a deadline of September 2015 to make a listing decision on the Greater Sage Grouse.
PLC and NCBA urge members of Congress to co-sponsor this legislation to ensure management remains with the states where the best decisions for the sage grouse can be made.
Source: National Cattlemen’s Beef Association