Western Values Project Statement on Defeat of Dangerous Sage Grouse Poison Pill

Yesterday, the Senate passed a clean version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was free of the dangerous sage grouse rider. The amendment, sponsored by Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), would have prohibited the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act for ten years and would have eliminated incentives to states to implement the federal and state sage grouse conservation. It had previously been included in the House version of the NDAA, but a clean version without this and several other poison pill riders passed both the House and Senate. The clean version without Bishop’s poison pills is on the way to the president for his signature.

Statement by Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill on the defeat of the sage grouse rider:

“We applaud the wisdom of Congress for leaving this harmful rider where it belongs: out of America’s national defense legislation. Sage grouse conservation and habitat management have nothing to do with our military operations or America’s national defense, and this poison pill would have undermined the years of hard work, compromise, and basic science that led to the historic land and habitat conservation that prevented the listing of the greater sage-grouse and protected the habitat of some 350 other species across the West.”

“Rep. Bishop was selling snake oil, trying to disguise special interest favors as riders in must-pass legislation, but the American public and the rest of Congress were too smart to buy his poison pills. This resounding defeat sends a clear message to those working to undermine the West’s sage-grouse deal: stop doing the bidding of special interests at the expense of our wildlife and our public lands.


This year marks the fourth year in a row that Rep. Bishop has introduced an amendment that attacks the sage grouse cooperative agreement, undermines conservation, and unnecessarily threatens America’s national defense. Each year, his poison pill has failed.

In 2015, the 11 Western states that contain the bird’s habitat agreed to a sage grouse management plan, the result of a collaborative effort that was reached after nearly a decade of collaboration and compromise between multiple stakeholders and that marked the greatest land conservation effort in U.S. history.  

Comment periods on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) draft environmental impact statement closed Aug. 2 and the Forest Service comment period closes on Aug. 15. Conservation groups estimate some 40,000 comments were submitted asking both agencies to honor the deal and save grouse during the most recent comment periods.

Previous analysis by Western Values Project exposed oil and gas industry influence on the officials who are managing the Department of the Interior’s controversial sage grouse review.

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