Press Room

Self-Described “Roosevelt Republican” Ryan Zinke Ignores Western Voices, Throws Sage-Grouse Under the Bus

The Secretary of the Interior announced his intent to overhaul land-management plans affecting ten Western states while completely disregarding conservation values and long-term Western economic interests.

WASHINGTON —“It wasn’t broken and it didn’t need fixing,” said David Yarnold (@david_yarnold), Audubon president and CEO, after the Department of the Interior published a Notice of Intent to overhaul the largest conservation plan in American history. “But if you break it, it becomes your legacy and that’s not something Secretary Zinke’s hero, Teddy Roosevelt, would ever have done.”

“This was a plan crafted by the states and it didn’t need the heavy hand of the Federal government — so let’s call it what it is: pandering to a few large energy interests and anti-public lands advocates that didn’t get what they wanted when this plan was sealed in 2015. There’s no other explanation for violating states’ rights and core GOP principles.” 

In 2015, Western governors, federal agencies, energy executives, ranchers, sportsmen, scientists and other stakeholders came together to celebrate that collective commitments to sage-grouse conservation were so strong that there was no need for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections. By working together, they had designed a path forward that provided enough flexibility for all stakeholders to pursue their livelihoods and traditions while also securing enough firm conservation commitments to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse and the sagebrush habitat it and 350 other species of wildlife depend on.

“Secretary Zinke is pulling the rug out from under literally hundreds of Western stakeholders from all parts of the political spectrum who came together to protect an entire ecosystem,” said Brian Rutledge, director of Audubon’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative. “Today’s announced changes to the land-use plans were designed with only a select few oil and gas and anti-public lands advocates in the room. Zinke’s disregard for Western interests will only accelerate the decline of the underappreciated and fragmented sagebrush sea.”

Western states’ fish and game experts agree that sage-grouse habitat protection is the best way forward. Scientists fear a focus on bird numbers alone and discredited methods to meet them like captive breeding would be doomed to fail, putting the sage-grouse at risk of further decline. Sage-grouse are indicator species for the health of the sagebrush, an ecosystem harboring 350 other species of wildlife, including birds like Sagebrush Sparrows and Burrowing Owls.

Audubon has engaged its 38 chapters in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming to oppose weakening conservation plans for the Greater Sage-Grouse.

To learn more about the unprecedented efforts to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse and the places it calls home, please visit www.audubon.org/sage-grouse.

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.

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Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez, ngonzalez@audubon.org, (212) 979-3100.

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