TWS Sends Senate Letter on Defense Bill Amendment

By Colleen Hartel

Sage grouse Image Credit: Bob Wick, BLM

TWS, along with 10 other sportsmen and conservation organizations, submitted a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), urging the committee to oppose an amendment that would delay a final listing for Greater Sage-Grouse under the Endangered Species Act for 10 years.

Restrictions on an endangered listing were included in the House version of the bill, but Senator Mike Lee’s (R-UT) amendment also included provisions affecting other species, like the Lesser Prairie Chicken and American Burying Beetle, as well as major impacts on management of federal public lands.

Ongoing voluntary conservation efforts have contributed to the recovery of the California-Nevada Bi-State population of sage-grouse, and western states continue to engage with the federal government to develop conservation plans for sage-grouse. However, legislative delays in wildlife management decisions have the potential to undermine the cooperative efforts that have resulted in successes for the species. The amendment would have transfer authority of public federal lands to the states, weakening the ability of federal agencies to fully respond to sage-grouse conservation needs and conserve sage-steppe ecosystems that support other iconic western species.

The letter expressed specific concerns over the changes in decision-making regarding public lands, as it granted governors of 11 western states the ability to veto management decisions on federal lands.

The efforts of sportsmen and conservation organizations were successful, as Senator Lee ultimately withdrew the amendment from consideration for inclusion in the bill, likely anticipating it would not draw enough votes required for passage.

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

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