HELENA, MT – This week, E&E reported that federal wildlife officials’ hands would again be tied in their attempts to protect the iconic Western sage grouse. The sage grouse – a ground-dwelling bird known for its unique mating dance – is a critical indicator species that has seen protections rolled back, habitat evaporate, and population numbers plummet in the name of unchecked oil and gas development during the Trump administration. Congress is proposing an unnecessary appropriations bill rider that would prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from assessing and providing additional protections for the birds’ habitat – home to 350-plus other species, including mule deer, elk and pronghorn antelope.
“The last thing Congress should be doing is following this lame-duck administration’s corrupt lead with an unnecessary rider for Big Oil. It’s the same special interest-driven bad government that voters rejected. But with one foot out the door, Trump and his corrupt cronies over at the Interior are still trying to ram through as many special interest and Big Oil favors as they can before they leave, and it may limit our ability to save one of the West’s most iconic species in the process,” said Western Values Project Director Jayson O’Neill.
Trump’s Interior Department is working feverously to finalize rollbacks to the ESA by defining habitat and limiting critical habitat designations before their term expires. The effort, which would be a major boon for oil and gas special interests, is being led by conflicted Interior official Karen Budd-Falen. Corrupt former oil and gas lobbyist Secretary Bernhardt has been deeply involved in sage grouse habitat rollbacks since he began working in the administration as well.
In addition to gutting the ESA, the administration is still trying to push through several major rollbacks and rule changes during the lame-duck session that would undermine wildlife protections and exploit public lands.
Trump continues to solidify his legacy as the worst public lands and environmental administration in history. Healthy sage grouse habitat contributes over one billion dollars in economic activity from outdoor recreation in rural areas.