LETTER: Preserving sage grouse habitat preserves endless other species

We strongly encourage the collaborative habitat restoration efforts to continue, so we can save the bird, save the herd, and sustainably enjoy our public lands for the benefit of sportsmen and women, outdoor recreationists, ranchers, and local economies

EDITOR: While no plans are perfect, the best opportunity to conserve the sage grouse and ensure that listing under the Endangered Species Act remains not warranted is to implement and improve the current state and federal sage-grouse conservation plans.  As numerous Western governors have clearly said, wholesale changes to the plans are not necessary and could derail years of hard work.  It is essential that the governors, state agencies, land owners, conservation groups, and other Western stakeholders remain at the table as Interior considers these recommendations and that the public has ample opportunities for input.

We all want to see sage grouse populations thrive, along with the more the 350 other species, including mule deer, pronghorn, and elk, that rely on Western sagebrush lands. To make this goal a reality, we must ensure that collaborative conservation efforts are kept on track among all key stakeholders and that we keep the focus on conserving and restoring the bird’s habitat.  We cannot fall victim to the false dichotomy that pits wildlife conservation against the administration’s energy development goals—especially when the plans have no effect on energy development on more than 80 percent of important sage-grouse habitat. Simply put, drastic changes are not necessary—and some ideas, like resorting to captive breeding of grouse and switching to state-by-state population objectives, will not get us where we need to be.

We strongly encourage the collaborative habitat restoration efforts to continue, so we can save the bird, save the herd, and sustainably enjoy our public lands for the benefit of sportsmen and women, outdoor recreationists, ranchers, and local economies.

Collin O’Mara is the National Wildlife Federation’s president and CEO