Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 4, 2014

Contact:  Travis Bruner, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 788-2290             
Erik Molvar, WildEarth Guardians, (307) 399-7910
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894
Todd Tucci, Advocates for the West, (208) 724-2142

Defense Bill Threatens Greater Sage Grouse, Would Give Free Pass to Livestock on Public Lands

WASHINGTON— The National Defense Authorization Act, soon to be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives, contains several provisions that would undermine current efforts to protect greater sage grouse on nearly 60 million acres of public lands, likely leading to the bird’s listing under the Endangered Species Act. The livestock lobby managed to get its “Grazing Improvement Act” into the bill (§3023), and this provision would automatically renew expiring grazing permits on public lands, even if these permits are causing the decline of greater sage grouse and other sensitive wildlife species.

“The proponents of the NDAA’s grazing provisions appear to be embracing a Wile E. Coyote philosophy of public-lands management,” said Todd Tucci, an attorney with Idaho-based Advocates for the West. “Because the NDAA requires automatic renewal of all grazing within sage grouse habitat — even grazing that is known to harm sage grouse populations and habitat — the livestock lobby’s approach is going to backfire and result in either making the listing of greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act unavoidable, or a “not warranted” listing decision untenable. Either way, the livestock lobby and its allies are walking off the cliff. Beep, beep,” said Tucci.

“This giveaway to the livestock industry should be stripped from the bill,” said Travis Bruner, executive director of Western Watersheds Project in Hailey, Idaho. “It is long past time for the livestock lobby to begin making the changes necessary to bring grazing on public lands into compliance with cornerstone environmental laws and agency policy.”

“This is a terrible deal for the American public and a devastating blow to the sage grouse,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Livestock grazing spreads invasive species, increases fire risk and degrades rivers and streams. The solution is not to turn a blind eye to the harm caused to the greater sage grouse and hundreds of other species.”

Provisions to allow voluntary retirement of livestock grazing permits in Oregon and New Mexico, included in the original bipartisan compromise bill, were stripped away when the grazing legislation was incorporated into the current defense bill.

“The only environmentally beneficial part of the Grazing Improvement Act — voluntary grazing permit retirement — was removed, making this bill a wholesale disaster,” said Erik Molvar, wildlife biologist with WildEarth Guardians. “This bill would make it harder for government agencies to manage livestock grazing on public lands, and create new obstacles to restoring damaged habitats where livestock grazing is currently degrading the health of our public lands.”

A recent government study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that more than 4 million acres of grazing allotments in priority sage grouse habitat do not meet range-health standards. Under this bill the allotments could be renewed without any consideration for the harm they are causing to imperiled grouse, clean water, and recreational uses of public lands.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Advocates for the West uses law and science to restore streams and watersheds, protect public lands and wildlife, and ensure sustainable communities in Idaho and other Western states.

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit conservation organization with a mission to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation.

WildEarth Guardians works to protect wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and the health of the American West, with 65,000 members across the West and nationwide.

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