House Natural Resources holds Sage-Grouse Hearing
On Tuesday, May 19th the House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing on “Empowering State Management of Greater Sage Grouse.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine the conservation efforts of states, to give states the opportunity to explain their role as wildlife managers, and to support true cooperation between the federal agencies and state and local governments. Witnesses included Kathleen Clarke, Director of the Utah Public lands Policy Coordinating Office and former Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); Dustin Miller, Administrator of the Idaho Office of Species Conservation; John Swartout, Senior Policy Advisor to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; and Dr. Ed Arnett, Senior Scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
After a warranted, but precluded listing determination in 2010, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been managing the greater sage-grouse as a candidate species. As part of the 2011 mega-settlement with WildEarth Guardians, FWS agreed to review hundreds of candidate species, including the greater sage-grouse. At the end of 2011, then Secretary Salazar encouraged western states to develop their own state management plans aimed at the conservation of the sage-grouse and its habitat. Many of the 11 states have completed work on their management plans and have been implementing them. Significant concerns have been raised across the eleven western states where sage grouse exist for several reasons, one being that FWS is not acknowledging the state’s efforts to protect the species, another being that a “one size fits all” approach to conservation will not work on the varying landscapes and climates across the west. There are also concerns regarding the amendments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) resource management plans (RMPs) being overly restrictive and will preclude or delay multiple use activities, including livestock grazing, on public lands.
PLC and NCBA encourage FWS and BLM to work cooperatively and collaboratively with states when it comes to the protection of any endangered species and the conservation and management of habitat. We continue to support the state’s role as primary manager of wildlife species within their borders.