Defense bill measure on endangered bird ruffles feathers

Defense bill measure on endangered bird ruffles feathers
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The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday kept a measure in the annual defense policy bill that blocks special protections for an at-risk bird species, as Democrats cried foul.

A provision in the “chairman’s mark” of the fiscal 2016 national defense authorization act (NDAA) prohibits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from putting the greater sage grouse on the endangered species list.

Rep. Niki Tsongas's (D-Mass.) amendment to strip the amendment, though, was defeated in a 36 to 26 roll call vote, one of the panel’s most contentious votes yet as members hammer out the defense bill. 

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Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopHouse Natural Resources chairman pledges to retire after next term Trump's monument plan still shrouded in secrecy Greens threaten lawsuit over potential monument reductions MORE (Utah), who heads the House Natural Resources Committee, and other Republican members argued that the bird’s large population hampers military facilities throughout the country.

Bishop noted that at the 327,000-acre Yakima Training Center in Washington state the Army is spending around $1.5 million to manage roughly 250 birds. He also argued that the biggest threats to the five-pound bird are fires on federally-owned lands.

Democrats countered that the provision has no place in the defense bill, seeing it as an attack on science and federal conservation efforts.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) lamented that the issue was being raised again. She said debate over the bird was always accompanied by a "pushing of chests," likening it to the sage grouse’s distinctive, "silly" strut.