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Conservationists urge Congress to nix sage-grouse budget rider
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% 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