If the federal land agencies insist on requiring special protections for sage grouse in Nevada and across the West, they should bear the brunt of the cost and not the state and local governments and private landowners, says Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents northern Nevada.
To that end he is introducing a bill — H.R. 4419, the Sage-Grouse and Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Act. It has not yet been entered into the Library of Congress database.
Amodei noted that 84 percent of the sage grouse habitat in Nevada is controlled by the federal government, but the federal land management agencies have requested almost no funding to carry out sage grouse habitat protection, such as wildfire prevention. They are passing the burden of funding on to the state and private landowners.
“The number one threat to sage hen habitat in Nevada is wildland fire,” said Amodei. “Yet the federal land management agencies, who own the vast majority of the habitat, have not prioritized funding needed to undertake the necessary work to conserve the resource and prevent the ESA (Endangered Species Act) listing. Instead, they point fingers in an attempt to saddle state and private landowners with the responsibility for funding projects that are absolutely the responsibility of the federal government. This is nothing short of extortion and sadly adds another chapter to the war on the West story.”
The federal government has already determined the sage grouse are deserving of protection under ESA but gave it a lower priority than other species. Under court order, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide by September 2015 whether to list the birds as threatened or endangered.
H.R. 4419 would require the feds to pay for conservation work prior to listing a species. To pay for that, the bill authorizes the federal land agencies to sell small parcels — 160 acres or less — to pay for conservation measures.
The bill also would apply Fifth Amendment provisions when private land is made useable by ESA determinations, requiring the landowner be compensated at fair-market value to loss of property use.
“Federal land managers cannot continue to pretend that they have no financial responsibility to lead by example in protecting and restoring the vast majority of sage hen habitat they own in Nevada and the West,” said Amodei.
Thus far federal land agencies have largely ignored the role of predators as a threat to sage grouse, a major cause of any sage grouse population decline, if there really is any.
A spokesman for Amodei said the allows federal agencies to implement predator control, specifically ravens.