WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) led their colleagues in a bicameral letter to House and Senate leadership urging the continued Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing prohibition for greater sage-grouse.
The State of Idaho’s sage-grouse conservation plan has consistently received high marks from Democrat and Republican administrations alike. However, without an ESA listing prohibition, greater sage-grouse remain subject to a cycle of activist litigation that costs taxpayers and undermines states’ conservation efforts. In an effort to combat this, a listing prohibition has been included in every annual appropriations bill since 2014 to allow state conservation efforts to proceed.
“[T]his prohibition gives the state conservation plans time to be effectively implemented and show results,” the letter read in part. “Instead of allowing the greater sage-grouse to be another victim of the activism industry that has been built around ESA-related litigation, we want to conserve the species. Using the knowledge and personal buy-in from States and local communities that have invested years in the development and implementation of these plans is the best way to do so.”
Along with Risch and Simpson, additional signers of the letter included Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Representatives Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.), Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), Jim Baird (R-Ind.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Paul Cook (R-Calif.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), and John Curtis (R-Utah).
Background: Idaho and other state-led efforts to conserve the sage-grouse have long included a wide array of stakeholders and significant investment to recover the species. In 2019, the Idaho legislature committed nearly $1 million to sage-grouse conservation, which the state leveraged to more than double that amount to treat and enhance thousands of acres of sage-grouse habitat. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has also received hundreds of millions of dollars in sage-grouse conservation funding through the annual appropriations process.
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer and Leader McCarthy:
We write to ask for your support for continuing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing prohibition for the greater sage-grouse, a provision that has been enacted in annual spending bills since fiscal year 2015 and is included in the Senate’s Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies spending bill for fiscal year 2021. State-led conservation of the species is working, and the Fish and Wildlife Service has signaled no intent or need to list the species in 2021. Continuing the provision for another year therefore does no harm to the species while saving taxpayers from expensive litigation and freeing up limited appropriations for truly endangered species.
Species conservation is of the utmost importance in the West, and the commitment shown to conserving greater sage-grouse is certainly no exception. The 11 western states with sage-grouse habitat have individually implemented collaborative, science-based conservation plans tailored to address the specific issues of their individual landscapes. These conservation strategies were created with extensive input from diverse stakeholders including scientists, conservationists, previous Administrations, and local industry leaders.
However, despite this scientific and collaborative approach, the greater sage-grouse has been embroiled in a cycle of litigation and listing determinations for decades. The threat of litigation undermines the collaborative process started by the Obama Administration in 2011. With as many as three listing considerations within a ten-year period, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has consistently found State-led strategies to be successful in avoiding the need to list the species. Despite this, conservation efforts have also faced top-down Federal directives that completely disregard local land management expertise and communities. Meanwhile, time and resources that could have been spent working on conservation have been wasted in lawsuits and bureaucracy. Some have argued that a potential listing keeps the pressure on conservation efforts, yet every year that the provision has been incorporated in the bill, funding for sage-grouse conservation has increased because of the commitment and partnerships of Federal, State, and local leaders.
Species conservation is a slow process, and this prohibition gives the state conservation plans time to be effectively implemented and show results. It also provides for on-the-ground decision-making and multiple land uses that communities have come to rely on. Instead of allowing the greater sage-grouse to be another victim of the activism industry that has been built around ESA-related litigation, we want to conserve the species. Using the knowledge and personal buy-in from States and local communities that have invested years in the development and implementation of these plans is the best way to do so.
The continuation of the prohibition against ESA listing for the greater sage-grouse is crucial not only for preserving ongoing State-Federal collaboration, but also for the long-term survival of the species. We appreciate your consideration of this request.
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