Pentagon gives $2M grant for sage grouse preservation

The Pentagon has awarded a $2 million grant to state and federal officials in Nevada to preserve the habitat of the greater sage grouse, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. 

The grant, approved by the Pentagon’s Military Services’ Readiness and Environment Protection Integration Program, will look to restore 11,000 acres of sage grouse habitat under airspace controlled by the Defense Department.

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Combined with $2 million in matching funds, the grant will go to ranchers and other officials looking to improve rangeland used by the birds, including removing trees where predatory raptors perch. The grant is the latest given by the Pentagon's environmental program for habitat preservation around the country. 

The sage grouse has become a flash point in the debate over government management of endangered and threatened species. 

The grouse’s Western habitat has dwindled over the years and its population decline has been so severe that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering whether to list it as an endangered species. A decision on a listing is due by this fall. 

Western governors and members of Congress have resisted an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing because of the stringent federal requirements that come along with it.

Several states and the Department of Interior banded together this year to come up with a management plan that could go toward preventing a listing. 

The issue has cropped up in defense debates because the grouse’s territory includes lands managed by the Pentagon. The House version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act seeks to block a Fish and Wildlife Service listing decision for the bird, with lawmakers arguing it could disrupt operations on military installations. 

The provision was among a litany of reasons why the White House threatened to veto the bill this spring.

Efforts like those from Interior in May and pushed by the Pentagon on Wednesday are meant to make an ESA listing unnecessary.

"We are thrilled to be able to move forward at an increased pace to protect parcels of greater sage grouse habitat,” Nevada Department of Wildlife Director Tony Wasley said, according to the AP.