Legislation Introduced to Ensure State Management of Sage Grouse
May 23, 2014

This week, U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Rob Bishop (Utah) introduced legislation to the House, along with Sen. Enzi's (Wyo.) companion legislation in the Senate, that would prohibit the Department of Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from listing the greater or Gunnison sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 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.

As a result of a court settlement with radical environmental groups, the USFWS has a deadline of September 2015 to make a listing decision on the greater sage grouse.

The American Sheep Industry Association is a member organization of the Public Lands Council.