WASHINGTON — Today, the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual must-pass piece of defense legislation. Once again, an attempt by Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) to attach a rider to prevent the listing of the Greater Sage-Grouse and the Lesser Prairie-Chicken under the Endangered Species Act failed to be included in the bill’s final language. In response, the National Audubon Society issued the following response:
“Cooler heads have prevailed and the sage-grouse will live another day thanks to our veterans, Western conservation champions and members of Congress who stood up for a defense bill without harmful environmental riders," said Brian Rutledge, director of Audubon's Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative.
“The idea that the sage-grouse would pose a threat to America’s military readiness is absurd and insulting to spend time debating it. Yet here we were again because Rep. Rob Bishop and other anti-conservation members of Congress shamelessly took advantage of a must-pass bill to attack the Endangered Species Act and America’s public lands.
“Extremist measures like this will only further degrade the collaborative spirit that led to the current sage-grouse conservation deal, which brought together stakeholders from all across the West and all across the political spectrum. Audubon looks forward to continuing the spirit of bipartisan cooperation to protect birds and the places they need.”
In 2015, Western states, 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, this partnership 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 sage-grouse. This important bird is an indicator species for the health of the sagebrush steppe ecosystem it and more than 350 other species of wildlife depend on.
More than 350 other species of wildlife, including many other species of birds, depend on a healthy sagebrush ecosystem. For example, Burrowing Owls often make their homes underground in abandoned prairie dog dens. Sage Thrashers can be heard singing atop sagebrush plants during breeding season as can the brightly-colored Western Meadowlark.
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 unproven methods to meet them like captive breeding would be doomed to fail, putting the sage-grouse at risk of further decline.
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. Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive.Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.
Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez, firstname.lastname@example.org, (212) 979-3100.