Press Room

The Greater Sage-Grouse Dodges Bullet, Stays Out of Defense Authorization Bill

Congress decides the bird is not a threat to military readiness.

WASHINGTON—After clearing the House last week and the Senate this afternoon, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) heads to the White House for President Obama's signature. In a victory for common sense, the NDAA leaves Congress without harmful language that would undermine existing Greater Sage-Grouse land-management plans under the guise of protecting the US military.

“The sage-grouse conservation plans are the result of years of painstaking collaboration between state, federal and private stakeholders,” said Brian Rutledge, Audubon’s policy and conservation advisor. “It’s good to see this rider removed from the defense authorization bill, where it had no place being to begin with. This was an ill-informed attempt by those with an anti-conservation agenda to undermine protections for our public lands and wildlife. It’s time to let local stakeholders, who put these plans together, get back to work”

The anti-grouse language was inserted into the House version of the defense authorization bill by Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT). The provision would have allowed states to block federal sage-grouse conservation plans and would have prevented the Department of the Interior from changing the bird’s conservation status for ten years. Such extreme measures would have effectively ended years of bipartisan cooperation between federal, state and private interests working to keep the bird and its sagebrush habitat healthy enough to avoid the need for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections. Earlier this year, the Pentagon released a letter declaring that it did “not believe [the sage-grouse conservation] plans will affect military training, operations or readiness to any significant degree.”

In September 2015, the Department of the Interior deemed the conservation plans strong enough and determined that the Greater Sage-Grouse did not warrant protection under the ESA, a decision cheered at the time as a “new lease on life” by Audubon.

To learn more about this bird, its habitat and Audubon’s work on its conservation, please visit

The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats 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 and @audubonsociety.


Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez, media relations manager,, 212-979-3068.

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