NWF Hails Removal of Harmful Sage-Grouse Rider in Defense Bill

Sportsmen, Wildlife Advocates Want to See Sage-Grouse Conservation Plans Carried Out

12-08-2016 // Judith Kohler

Male sage grouseDENVER – Congress has passed a new defense authorization bill after removing anti-conservation provisions, including one that would have undercut comprehensive plans to conserve the greater sage-grouse and the Western sagebrush lands that support more than 350 species.

Eliminating the harmful sage-grouse language in the National Defense Authorization Act is a boost for the work needed to rebuild sage-grouse populations, said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director.

Greater sage-grouse once numbered in the millions across the western U.S., but current population estimates are between 400,000 and 200,000.

“The attempt to use the defense bill to block the sage-grouse conservation plans was never about protecting military operations in the bird’s habitat because defense officials didn’t anticipate problems complying with the plans. The sage-grouse provision in the defense bill was about trying to undermine management of our public lands,” Zimmerman said. “This end-run on collaborative conservation would have undermined years of work, bringing the bird closer to extinction and increasing the likelihood that drastic measures would eventually be needed to save it. Let’s get on with saving the sage-grouse and sagebrush country, which is important for all kinds of wildlife as well as ranchers, hunters and recreationists.”

The National Wildlife Federation is pleased other provisions that would have been harmful to wildlife and the habitat they depend on were dropped from the final conference report for the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act. As a result, Clean Water Act protections remain in place to reduce the spread of invasive species from ships’ ballast water discharge; the Desert National Wildlife Refuge will remain open to the public; and the Department of Defense will continue to use alternative fuels that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, Endangered Species Act protections remain for the lesser prairie chicken and the American burying beetle.

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