For more than 100 years in America, state government and supportive private wildlife conservation groups have protected, restored, and sustained our nation’s wildlife.
Thirty years ago, the federal government started the Endangered Species program as a safety net to provide for emergency needs for wildlife restoration.
Today, and especially concerning the sage grouse, we are learning how these two fundamentals of American wildlife policy – the state and local program and the federal program – can work together.
The state and local program needs the flexibility to respond when concerns arise; the federal program must be vigilant, but not premature in acting; and, both need equal ability to involve both private and federal land managers.
We may not be perfect in this yet, but today we will discuss an excellent example of how it is working and where it needs to improve.
State wildlife managers and private conservationists from energy companies, ranching families, and environmental and sportsmen’s groups are leading this effort. Federal agencies are helping.
This is a good start.
Together they are responding to declines in the harvestable surplus populations of sage grouse, and we need this work to continue, and we need the ability to try new ideas until we find one that works.
A proposal has been made to list the bird under the ESA. Listing the bird, if it happens, ironically will limit our options for helping the bird, but today we are here to focus on first things first: what we are doing in the field and what we need to try next.
I have directed the attention of the witnesses to the “Outline of Ideas for Sustaining Sage Grouse Conservation” prepared by the staff, and I ask unanimous consent that it be included in the record.
This document summarizes the current situation and its potential for a breakthrough in wildlife conservation partnership.
The parties represented on our panels today want to figure out together what techniques and approaches will improve sage grouse populations.
They want to negotiate the details of who will commit to which of the necessary tasks and at what cost.
I am certain that if such a diverse group can agree to work together for wildlife, then our land management policies and regulations can support it – even if it means revising an existing plan, manual, regulation, or law.
Today we begin to look into this exciting possibility and I appreciate all who have joined me in getting started.