Press Room

Audubon Welcomes Senate Passage of Bird-Free Defense Authorization Bill

Now that the House and Senate have voted on legislation free of harmful riders that would have undermined the Endangered Species Act, the bill heads to the White House for signature.

WASHINGTON — Today, the Senate voted on and passed the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual must-pass piece of legislation. The bill ultimately does not include a proposed amendment that would have prohibited the listing under the Endangered Species Act of the Greater Sage-Grouse and Lesser Prairie-Chicken for a period of 10 years. In response, the National Audubon Society issued the following statement:

“Common sense has prevailed and the sage-grouse has dodged a major bullet. Legislation that supports our troops is no place to include harmful amendments that undermine America’s bedrock conservation laws,” said Brian Rutledge, director of Audubon’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative.

“Now we can stop debating the absurd notion that these birds threaten America’s military readiness and get back to protecting the sagebrush ecosystem that the sage-grouse and millions of Westerners depend on.”

After a bipartisan group of key western Governors and members of the public strongly vocalized their opposition to political interference in a bill related to national security, the ESA riders were removed from draft legislation.

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 ensure that sage-grouse remain an important fixture on the West’s sagebrush ecosystem. This important bird is an indicator species for the health of sagebrush country.

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.

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, ngonzalez@audubon.org, (212) 979-3100.

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