Defense Bill Delays Sage-Grouse Listing

By Colleen Hartel

Sage grouse Image Credit: Bob Wick/BLM

Language added to National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 would prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from issuing a final listing for sage-grouse populations under the Endangered Species Act for the next 10 years.

Congressmen Bishop (R-Utah), Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, added the language to the defense bill and argued that a final listing for sage-grouse would impact military exercises and increase compliance costs at Department of Defense (DOD) installations in western states.

However, DOD spokesman Mark Wright has stated that greater federal regulation for the bird would not hinder the nation’s military. While DOD lands do host sage-grouse populations, the agency has worked with FWS and state officials to revise integrated natural resource management plans to account for sage-grouse population management.

Despite attempts by other Members of Congress to put forward amendments striking the language from the bill, the overall bill, including the provision, was approved by the House Armed Services Committee and will advance the entire House for consideration. Senator Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, anticipates the language delaying a sage-grouse listing will face little resistance in the Senate.

This isn’t the first time the sage-grouse listing has been targeted by legislation. Last year’s spending bill included a provision that prevented the FWS from issuing a final listing for several sage-grouse populations under the Endangered Species Act in Fiscal Year 2015.

FWS was otherwise expected to make a final determination for sage-grouse on September 30 at the end of the 2015 Fiscal Year.

Source: Energy & Environment Daily (April 24, 2015), Energy & Environment Daily (April 30, 2015), Energy & Environment PM (April 27, 2015).

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

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