GOP wants to block bird’s endangered species listing

Five Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would block the federal government from listing the sage grouse as an endangered species, instead relying on state conservation efforts to protect the bird.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Reps. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) said their bill, the Sage Grouse Protection Conservation Act, encourages states to work with the Interior and Agriculture departments to protect both the greater sage grouse and the smaller Gunnison grouse.

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The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the endangered designation for the Gunnison grouse following a federal court settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity. The Service has committed to making a final decision on the designation by November.

“A one-size-fits-all approach is not the way to best protect the Sage grouse,” Gardner said in a Thursday statement.

“States have proven that they are more than capable of working in tandem with the federal government to preserve wildlife,” he said. “By encouraging conservation plans at the state level, those most familiar with the local habitats and economies will be directly involved throughout the species management process.”

“The matter concerning the protection and recovery of the western Sage grouse is a perfect example of something that can and should be managed by the states in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture,” Bishop said.

Sage grouses live exclusively in Western states. An endangered listing could put new restrictions on private landowners or lessees on federal land.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has already listed the Gunnison grouse as endangered.