A collection of U.S. Representatives and one Senator on Thursday released legislation to prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the Greater or Gunnison Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 where a state management plan is in place.
The bill, introduced by Reps. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Rob Bishop, R-Utah, in the House and Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., in the Senate, intend to "allow protection of the Sage Grouse habitat while balancing the needs of western citizens and their economies," the Public Lands Council said.
If signed into law, the bill would require the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to approve or disapprove of a state sage grouse management plan 120 days after it is submitted.
Sage Grouse are found in 11 states across the western United States and their habitat encompasses 186 million acres of both federal and private land.
PLC President Brice Lee said a listing would lead to decreased agricultural production, outdoor recreation, and renewable and traditional forms of energy development, severely limiting multiple use on public lands.
"State and private landowners have already spent millions of dollars and a considerable amount of time developing management plans, improving habitat, and implementing conservation measures," Lee said. "Listing of the sage grouse under the ESA would undo all of this work and would have a negative impact not only on ranchers on both private and public lands but on the sage grouse and its habitat.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Bob McCan said the bill ensures management stays with local and state offices on the ground.
"Livestock grazing and wildlife habitat conservation are complimentary efforts," said McCan, "Ranchers care for the land and the natural resources their livelihoods depend on. The cattle and sage grouse benefit more from native grass and lush forage than endless lawsuits filed by special interest groups."
As a result of a court settlement with environmental groups, PLC said, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a deadline of September 2015 to make a listing decision on the Greater Sage Grouse.