WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch, R-Idaho, introduced the Greater Sage-Grouse Protection and Recovery Act of 2017, legislation allowing states to implement their own specific conservation and management plans to protect greater sage-grouse populations and their habitats, in lieu of federal management. Original cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Senators Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Dean Heller, R-Nev., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Steve Daines, R-Mont.
“If the federal government shares our concerns and goals, it will allow the states to implement their own plans to protect the sage-grouse while at the same time meeting their individual community’s needs,” Risch said.
“Senator Risch and I strongly support the collaborative work undergone in Idaho, other state governments and a broad range of impacted stakeholders to conserve habitat for the sage grouse,” Crapo said. “This legislation will provide states the ability to implement locally-based land management plans that were developed and will be managed by those who know the local conditions and needs best.”
“The current heavy-handed sage-grouse plans needlessly impose restrictions on millions acres of land in Nevada alone, threatening our western way of life while doing little to improve habitat. Our legislation allows western states the flexibility to choose the proper methods to improve the sage-grouse population while keeping Nevada’s economic stability and community needs in mind,” Heller said.
“For years, state leaders have worked tirelessly to develop and implement careful, pragmatic plans to protect the Greater Sage-grouse and its habitat,” Hatch said. “These efforts have paid off tremendously, producing laudable results in the continued conservation and recovery of the species.This legislation will empower the states to continue their good work in conserving the species while simultaneously protecting our lands and jobs from federal overreach.”
“No one knows how to take care of Utah better than Utahns,” Lee said. “Our State of has spent millions of dollars restoring half a million acres of sage grouse habitat, but despite this success, the federal government has forced its own plan on us. This bill will restore the proper state-federal sage grouse management balance.”
Sage-grouse habitat is spread out over more than a quarter million square miles. Currently, the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service manage federal lands with sage-grouse habitat under nearly 100 separate land use plans affecting tens of millions of acres.
The Greater Sage-Grouse Protection and Recovery Act would allow states to choose between implementing their own conservation and management plan based on their community specific needs or deferring to federal agencies for greater sage-grouse protection. Further, this legislation would prohibit the Secretary of Interior from conducting large scale mineral withdrawals for the protection of greater sage-grouse. A companion measure to this legislation was introduced in the House on Jan. 13 with eleven original sponsors from seven western states.
For 10 years, the current status of the bird under the Endangered Species Act will be maintained, which the Fish and Wildlife Service has determined does not warrant ESA protection.
The BLM and Forest Service will be required to report annually to Congress on the status of the species on federal lands under their jurisdictions.
The bill also prevents litigation aimed at upending this carefully crafted compromise that gives state plans a chance to work in response to data on population trends compiled by the federal agencies.