Senator John Walsh today introduced legislation to give states and private landowners the tools to manage the sage grouse, protect future economic growth, and require the Obama Administration to be more transparent about the listing process under the Endangered Species Act.
Walsh's bill, the Sage Grouse Accountability and Private Conservation Act, requires the Interior Department to lay its cards on the table by making clear the metrics it will use to make a listing decision about the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. It requires a report to be released making all of the information public before a decision is made, providing Montana and other states an opportunity to provide additional input about the listing decision.
"There is momentum across Montana to implement a made-in-Montana solution to managing sage grouse, and protecting future economic growth," Walsh said. "My legislation requires the Obama Administration to be more transparent in their decision making and assists private landowners in their efforts as responsible stewards of the land. Montanans can work together to ensure that there is a balanced approach."
Last year the state of Montana established the Sage Grouse Advisory Council to create a made-in-Montana solution to protect the sage grouse habitat while allowing for responsible energy development and continued agricultural production. Montanans have emphasized that proper management of sage grouse will also protect the larger wildlife and game species that share land with the sage grouse, such as elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and the golden eagle.
The legislation will also improve local resources by increasing the federal portion invested for agricultural land easements from 50 percent to 75 percent for projects involving sage grouse habitat.
This bill increases the federal focus on avoiding a listing by adding new criteria for ranking agricultural land easements to include maximizing the protection of sage grouse habitat.
The sage grouse's habitat includes 165 million acres across 11 states in the West.
Senators Jon Tester from Montana and Mark Udall from Colorado are cosponsoring Walsh's bill.