FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Kristina Baum (EPW) – 202.224.6176
Donelle Harder (EPW) – 202.224.4721
Lee Lonsberry (Bishop) – 202.225.8201
Inhofe, Bishop Urge NDAA Conferees to Adopt House Language on Greater Sage Grouse
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter today to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees urging the Big Four to adopt language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) currently in conference that would impact the treatment of the Greater Sage Grouse, Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC), and American Burying Beetle (ABB) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Specifically in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) announcement today that the Greater Sage Grouse does not warrant specific protection under ESA for the next five years, Inhofe and Bishop wrote that this announcement makes the House-passed language on these species all the more important to be included in the conferenced NDAA.
In the letter, Inhofe and Bishop wrote: "While today’s announcement may seem like a short-term victory, it is actually in keeping with the Administration’s plan to expand its reach into state and local governance on environmental matters. The Greater Sage Grouse habitat is often found on federal lands, including large tracts of military test and training ranges, over which the Interior Department has exerted control with onerous land use plans with little to no meaningful consultation with the Department of Defense. Thus, while the bird will not specifically be listed under ESA for 5 years, the Interior Department can continue to usurp state and military power over land within its administrative control by amending its land-use plans. Further, given the litigious history of the Endangered Species Act by outside and well-funded environmental groups, there is no guarantee that today’s Greater Sage Grouse decision will survive what is sure to be a lengthy court battle. With the history of past ESA court actions, it is entirely possible that during the next 5 years a sympathetic federal court could impose ESA proceedings leading to strict land use and overflight restrictions. This outcome would leave states, and stakeholders such as the U.S. military, with both ESA roadblocks in addition to the stringent land use plans announced today.”
The chairmen closed with, “This language is vital now more than ever, and takes a reasonable approach to a very complicated issue, allowing states to retain control over their lands, while ensuring that the most effective conservation plans are given time to work. This language also will allow the U.S. military to continue to test and train on various ranges helping protect against environmental encroachments on military readiness.”
To view the full text of the letter, click here.
On Sept. 22, Inhofe released a statement raising concerns over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife decision to find the sage grouse ‘not warranted’ as a listing under ESA. Bishop also released a statement on the USFWS decision as well.
On May 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the NDAA for fiscal year 2016 that included language authored by Bishop to prohibit the Obama Administration from declaring the Greater Sage Grouse as endangered and would ensure states have the final say in conservation efforts of the bird. The legislation also included language authored by Congressman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) that would effectively remove the LPC from being listed for a period of five years and would delist the ABB.