For Release: Thursday, April 28, 2022
Joe Bushyhead, WildEarth Guardians, 505-660-0284, [email protected]
Hawk Hammer, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-0295, [email protected]
Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy, 202-744-6459, [email protected]
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, 307-399-7910, [email protected]
Conservationists urge Congress to nix sage-grouse budget rider
Letter to legislators highlights alarming greater sage-grouse habitat loss and population declines
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, nearly eighty conservation organizations sent a letter to House and Senate appropriations committees requesting that forthcoming 2023 budget bills exclude the so-called “sage-grouse rider,” a provision that prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from considering the imperiled greater sage-grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Congress must pass spending bills every year to fund the Federal government. But too often, lawmakers attach controversial policy riders to this must-pass legislation.
The sage-grouse rider is an example. Greater sage-grouse, found only in the West’s shrinking sagebrush ecosystems, have been in steady decline due to habitat fragmentation and degradation. Drought, wildfire, and cheatgrass invasion—all worsened by climate change—pose an ever-growing threat. In 2010, the Fish and Wildlife Service found that greater sage-grouse warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act. But the sage-grouse rider, first introduced in 2014 and long championed by the oil and gas industry, has barred the agency from issuing a rule to list the bird as threatened or endangered.
“The sage-grouse rider removes even the chance of Endangered Species Act protections for an iconic and disappearing native bird,” the letter states.
Recent studies paint an alarming picture. A 2021 study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that greater sage-grouse populations have declined 80% percent rangewide since 1965, and nearly 40% since 2002. Population monitoring by the Bureau of Land Management, which manages millions of acres of greater sage-grouse habitat, confirms downward population trends and documents a rapid increase in cheatgrass invasion. The Bureau is currently evaluating how to amend land use plans to halt population declines and habitat loss.
“Now more than ever–with a renewed land use planning effort underway and greater sage-grouse populations continuing to decline–Congress must allow the Endangered Species Act to serve its purpose as both an incentive for much-needed protections and a lifeline to halt this iconic Western bird’s slide towards extinction,” wrote the coalition.
A copy of the letter is available here: https://pdf.wildearthguardians.org/support_docs/Please-Oppose-Sage-Grouse-Rider-in-FY23-Interior-Bill.pdf
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