For Immediate Release, April 29, 2015
Contact: Randi Spivak, (310) 779-4894, firstname.lastname@example.org
House Committee Backs Rider to Halt Sage Grouse Protection,
Give Governors Veto Over Federal Lands Management
Panel Approves Military Spending Bill Undermining Conservation on
60 Million Acres in West
WASHINGTON— The U.S. House Armed Services Committee today voted to maintain a sweeping provision in a military spending bill that will delay, for a decade, any effort to federally protect greater sage grouse and undermine federal agencies’ efforts to protect grouse habitat across millions of acres in the West.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) had included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act until 2025 and allow governors within sage grouse range to effectively veto any federal land management changes designed to protect the animals. This provision essentially turns over management authority on approximately 60 million acres of public lands to individual states. The armed services committee today rejected an amendment by Representative Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) on a partisan vote to delete the Bishop language from the military spending bill.
“The Bishop rider gives local politicians and their industry friends veto power over 60 million acres of federal land and condemns the sage grouse to extinction,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Bishop’s language would virtually eliminate the ability of the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to improve environmental stewardship where oil and gas extraction, mining and livestock grazing occur. Federal land-management plans include giving the public and all stakeholders the ability to shape and participate in the planning process — which would be negated by Bishop’s rider. The rider is part of a larger effort among western lawmakers to turn federal lands over to state managers.
“The Tea Party rider takes away the public’s right to participate in land-management decisions and simply hands the keys to our public lands to industry. It’s an unprecedented giveaway to corporate polluters that’s completely out of step with public opinion on the importance of protecting the people’s lands,” said Spivak. “Poll after poll shows that an overwhelming majority opposes transferring or selling public lands to states.”
Sage grouse populations, currently under the management of state fish and game agencies, are at a fraction of their historic numbers and have declined by more than 50 percent between 2007 and 2013. The Department of Defense has not asked for and does not need this provision.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.