Concern over sage-grouse language in military bill continues

By Lauren McDonald

©Jeannie Stafford/USFWS

rider in the House version of the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 4909) that would undermine sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) conservation efforts continues to receive strong opposition despite being passed by the House last month.

The rider, inserted into the language of NDAA by Rep. Bishop (R-UT), would amend 98 Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land-use plans by giving states the ability to overrule federal conservation efforts in favor of state plans.

The rider would also forbid the Secretary of the Department of Interior from changing the conservation status of sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) until Sept. 30, 2025.

The provision has received pushback from both lawmakers and members of the Department of Defense. Opponents of the sage-grouse language argue that ESA already has a mechanism for preventing natural resource management plans from disrupting military preparedness, making this rider an unnecessary addition to the military spending bill.

An identical version of this rider also passed the House last year as part of the Fiscal Year 2016 NDAA. However, the measure was not included in the Senate version of the bill and an amendment to add the language was ultimately withdrawn from consideration.

The Wildlife Society submitted a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee opposing this amendment. In the letter, TWS issued concerns that the amendment would undermine the landscape-level conservation efforts that led to the decision not to list the species as endangered or threatened under ESA.

Currently, the Senate is considering their version of NDAA, which does not contain the sage-grouse provision. Both versions of NDAA need to pass Congress in identical form before being considered by the President.

Lauren McDonald is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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