Delegation opposes sage grouse listing
Nevada’s congressional delegation lined up to oppose listing the sage grouse as an endangered species at a meeting with top officials with the U.S. Department of Interior on Wednesday.
Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei met with officials to discuss actions that can be taken to help prevent the Endangered Species Act listing of the sage grouse, as well as the negative impact such a listing would have on the economic growth and development of the Silver State.
The “Sage Hen Summit” featured key federal land managers and policy makers from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Representative Dina Titus was able to join for the conclusion of the meeting. And Representatives Joe Heck and Steven Horsford were unable to attend, but did send staff.
“Conservation and restoration of sagebrush habitat in Nevada and throughout the West is vital to maintaining healthy sage grouse populations and thwarting a threatened or endangered listing that will negatively affect Nevadans and our rural economies,” said Sen. Harry Reid. “I look forward to working with the Nevada Congressional delegation, our federal and state agencies, and Nevadans to solve this critical issue.”
“Should the sage grouse be listed as an endangered species, Nevada’s way of life and our state’s economic recovery will be in jeopardy. I am committed to working with Governor Sandoval and the rest of the delegation to take steps on the federal level that complement and reinforce strategies developed in the state to prevent such a listing,” said Sen. Dean Heller. “Collaboration is an important part of our efforts, and today’s meeting helps move us closer to the goal of protecting the building blocks of Nevada’s economy.”
“In Nevada, wildland fire and invasive species, such as cheat grass, that follow in its path are responsible for nearly 85 percent of lost sage hen habitat,” said Rep. Mark Amodei. “Rather than putting the onus on local stakeholders through regulatory mechanisms to stop habitat loss, the federal government, as the landlord of approximately 85 percent of the state, needs to focus on preventative fuels management before wildfire strikes and habitat restoration following burn events. Multiple use is not the driver of habitat loss.”
“Preserving sage grouse habitat and keeping it off the endangered species list is of critical importance to the long-term economic and environmental health of Nevada,” said Rep. Joe Heck.
“Listing the sage grouse as an endangered species would have widespread implications for future land use and significantly impact economic development across Nevada,” said Rep. Dina Titus.
Nearly half of the 24,136 acres burned by the Bison fire, which was started by lightning on July 4, is considered bi-state greater sage-grouse habitat. Federal and state agencies are assessing 11,000 acres of habitat in the Pine Nut Mountains burned in the Bison fire for rehabilitation and stabilization.
Keeping the grouse from being named an endangered species has been a long-term project for Nevadans.
State officials approved spending around $300,000 in October 2012 to fund an effort to show the federal government that Nevada is on top of protecting the bird and that listing it as endangered isn’t necessary.
A report issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said listing the bird as endangered was warranted, prompting the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to prepare amendments to their plans to help preserve the bird’s habitat.
The fish & wildlife service found that a lack of regulation was a significant threat to the sage grouse.
Listing the bird as endangered could affect uses on federal lands such as grazing or mining, which could result in increased costs to engage in those activities.
The grouse lives in portions of Lyon, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Douglas counties in Nevada, and in portions of Alpine, Inyo, and Mono Counties in California.
The area covers the Bridgeport and Carson ranger districts, which are preparing an environmental impact statement, along with the Bureau of Land Management. Ideas for preserving sage grouse habitat include setting aside areas around sage grouse leks during mating seasons, using vegetation to improve sage grouse habitat, and identifying guidelines for minerals management and other permitted activities to reduce impacts to the sage grouse and its habitat.