Congress Should Allow Historic Collaboration on Sage-Grouse Management to Continue

TRCP senior scientist will testify that in-progress conservation plans driven by the listing deadline are synergistic and the process should continue without a major shift in power

Male Greater-Sage Grouse Photo Jeremy R. Roberts
Male Greater-Sage Grouse; Photo Jeremy R. Roberts
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Washington, DC -(Ammoland.com)- House lawmakers from the Committee on Natural Resources will meet tomorrow to discuss the states’ management role in sage-grouse conservation efforts.

In this oversight hearing, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Senior Scientist Ed Arnett will testify that sportsmen support the ongoing collaboration between federal, state, and local players on conservation plans for sagebrush habitat on federal public lands, rather than a prolonged delay of the listing decision or a major shift in power to the states.

“There can be no doubt that the best way to maintain state oversight of sage-grouse and hundreds of sagebrush-dependent species is to keep this bird off of the endangered species list,” says Arnett, whose complete written testimony is available here. “The Endangered Species Act is a tool of last resort, and for sportsmen, it certainly isn't the preferred vehicle for conservation. But it seems that the specter of an ESA listing has been necessary to drive the historic level of collaboration among federal land managers, state governments, private landowners, and Western stakeholders that is currently taking place on behalf of the greater sage-grouse.”

With the majority of sage-grouse habitat on federal lands, hunters and anglers are concerned with legislation currently under consideration that would turn over land-use and habitat management authority of federal lands to the states. This represents an unprecedented shift of management responsibility that could delay implementation of plans that have been years in the making and block real results for these birds. The shift is also unnecessary, considering that states are already within their power to develop robust conservation plans and are, in fact, participating in efforts to prevent a listing.

“Any notion that the 11 states in the birds’ range have not had every opportunity to engage and take the lead in conservation efforts is misleading,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “State agency officials first expressed concern about sage-grouse decades ago, and the states have been full partners with federal land managers, ranchers, and other relevant stakeholders in developing the conservation roadmap for greater sage-grouse since that time.”

Under proposed legislation, the future of the greater sage-grouse would rely on existing state plans—some of which are still being developed, and few currently include binding assurances for conservation measures.

Sportsmen’s groups believe the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can get to a “not warranted” decision by the court-ordered deadline in September 2015 without Congressional intervention, other than the allocation of appropriate levels of funding. The recent “not warranted” decision on the bi-state population of greater sage-grouse in Nevada and California demonstrates that a positive outcome from current collaborative efforts can be achieved, especially if Congress invests in conservation. Arnett will argue tomorrow that the ongoing process and negotiations should be allowed to play out and be finalized with the goal of a comprehensive, coordinated state and federal strategy for sage-grouse and sagebrush ecosystems.

“Delay efforts that have resurfaced in several legislative proposals will not reverse worrisome long-term trends,” says Arnett. “Core sage-grouse habitat simply must be protected with durable conservation plans that eventually produce better habitat and more birds, and we are already on that path. Strong federal plans covering both BLM and Forest Service lands are close to final, and we are reasonably confident that those plans, if implemented in conjunction with good state plans, will prevent an endangered species listing.”

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About Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.

For more information on the TRCP, please visit our website at www.TRCP.org.

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