In a letter sent to key House and Senate appropriations committee leaders today, 80 environmental groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, are pressing for the exclusion of the greater sage-grouse rider from the FY22 Interior Appropriations bill.
Since 2014, Interior and Environment Appropriations bills have included an unrelated and inappropriate policy provision or “rider” that prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from considering the greater sage-grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“The greater sage-grouse continues to decline across its range and its prospects seem pretty grim. With a new administration comes the renewed hope that Congress will do the right thing and remove the rider,” said Senior Federal Lands Policy Analyst Vera Smith, Defenders of Wildlife. “Now is the time to let science, not politics, dictate the best way to protect this iconic bird and the Sagebrush ecosystems on which it – and hundreds of other species – depend.”
The greater sage-grouse is an imperiled western bird and the charismatic ambassador for the Sagebrush Sea. The U.S. Geological Survey reported in April that greater sage-grouse populations have declined 80% rangewide since 1965 and nearly 40% since 2002. The survey also predicted only a 50% chance that most breeding grounds, called leks, will be productive in about 60 years from now if current conditions persist.
The Trump administration reversed strong conservation prescriptions for the bird which had been put in place by the Obama administration in 2015 that were developed through an unprecedented multi-party process.