Guest Opinion

Opening up sage-grouse plans threatens bird, western lands


By Dave Chadwick


The Interior Department is planning to re-open the books on a historic 2015 effort by state and federal authorities to conserve habitat for the sage-grouse in Montana and across the West, the New York Times reported today. This decision threatens years of hard work by local communities, imperiling a signature Western species and hundreds of other animals that depend on this one-of-a-kind landscape.

Two years ago, the work of thousands of Westerners came to fruition when sage-grouse were not listed under the Endangered Species Act. That hard work has brought together Montanans of all stripes to find common ground on contentious public land management issues. We strongly support Gov. Steve Bullock’s efforts to keep the federal and state plans in place, while making strategic changes that don’t upend over 10 years’ worth of work by people around the West.

My criticism was echoed by wildlife conservation leaders across the West.

Brian Brooks, executive director, Idaho Wildlife Federation: “Even as Secretary Ryan Zinke complains of top-down schemes imposed on the West, he and his hand-picked team would be serving special interests in Washington, D.C., by gutting plans that were driven by local stakeholders and by science. Tossing out the years of work by grassroots networks that produced the conservation plans is bad policy.”

Joy Bannon, Wyoming Wildlife Federation field director and member of the Wyoming Sage Grouse Implementation Team: “Under the leadership of Gov. Matt Mead, Wyomingites of all stripes came to the table and worked together to develop balanced management plans to conserve greater sage-grouse and their habitat. Now, this state-based solution in partnership with federal land managers is being trumped by Washington D.C.”

Collin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said: “In the West, a deal is a deal and a handshake still matters. Interior needs to uphold its end of the bargain and listen to Western governors and their constituents when they say wholesale changes to the sage-grouse plans aren’t necessary. It’s time to implement these plans on the ground, not revisit them, to save the bird and the sagebrush country that sustains more than 350 species as well our outdoor and sporting heritage.”


Dave Chadwick is the executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation.



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