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NWF, Affiliates: Sage-Grouse Order Could Derail Conservation Effort

Sportsmen, Wildlife Advocates Say It’s Time to Restore the Bird and the Sagebrush Steppe

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The order by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review and perhaps significantly alter the greater sage-grouse conservation plans runs the risk of derailing a years-long effort to save the bird and a landscape that supports 350 other species, the National Wildlife Federation said today.
The 60-day review by an Interior Department team could upend plans that are based on science, conditions in individual Western states, and the overall threats to sage grouse, including the loss and degradation of its habitat, while allowing for responsible energy development.

Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s president and CEO, released the following statement:

“The work to save the greater sage-grouse represents one of the most collaborative and significant conservation efforts in American history. The conservation plans written by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, developed with input from states, local governments, landowners, conservationists, and others, are ready to go and should be carried out, not put on hold while sage-grouse and their habitat face ongoing threats. These plans, which specified on-the-ground work in 10 Western states, were the reason the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined in 2015 that the greater sage-grouse did not require listing under the Endangered Species Act.

“Today's Secretarial Order to review and perhaps alter the collaborative conservation plans could unnecessarily derail this multi-state effort and jeopardize not only an iconic species, but the sagebrush steppe that supports more than 350 wildlife species, including mule deer and pronghorn, provides countless opportunities for hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts, and supports more than $1 billion in annual economic benefits for local communities. We agree with Governors John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Matt Mead of Wyoming, who made it clear in a recent letter to Secretary Zinke that they don’t think wholesale changes to the plans are needed and that focusing on the number of birds rather than the health of the habitat isn’t the way to go. Making drastic changes is simply not necessary when the existing plans do not affect energy development on more than 80 percent of the potential habitat area and less than 50 percent of existing energy leases on public lands are currently in production.  We strongly encourage the collaborative habitat restoration efforts to continue, so we can save the bird and save the herd.” 

Here are comments from some of the National Wildlife Federation’s state affiliates:

“The secretarial order on sage-grouse could create more delay and impede what we in Colorado and others across the West want – growing, healthy sage-grouse populations and the conservation of its habitat. More delay and debate will undermine the restoration of a bird and a landscape that’s crucial to a wide diversity of wildlife. Any review or changes to the plan should be made with one goal in mind – avoiding further declines of the sage-grouse population to the point where drastic measures will be required to save it.” ~ Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation

“The state of Wyoming has been at the forefront of sage-grouse conservation, having developed a strategy that was a model for other Western states. We’ve been all in and don’t want all the work, time and collaboration to get sidetracked by the unnecessary redoing of the conservation plans, the very plans that led to the decision not to list greater sage-grouse. We don’t want to jeopardize all our work and the good will that has grown out of face-to-face, on-the-ground efforts to save the bird and sagebrush lands.” ~ Joy Bannon, Wyoming Wildlife Federation field director and member of the Wyoming Sage Grouse Implementation Team

“Saving the greater sage-grouse and its habitat matters because we Westerners care about our wildlife and public lands. The conservation plans are the result of a lot of give and take and collaboration and should be given a chance to work. We don’t want the secretarial order to throw things off track and end up risking sage-grouse, a habitat that supports mule deer, pronghorn and other wildlife as well as the public lands where we hunt, fish and recreate.” ~ Robert Gaudet, Nevada Wildlife Federation board president

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