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Republicans target Endangered Species Act for sage grouse, oil-drilling conflict

Greater sage grouse male and female
Greater sage grouse male and female
Madison birds

Republicans have a new legislative target in their crosshairs, which is momentarily replacing their focus on gutting the Environmental Protection Agency.

They want to “update” the Endangered Species Act, by introducing legislation specifically designed to block protection of an exotic sage bird.

Only a few hundred thousand greater sage grouse have survived when their numbers once peaked at 16 million estimated the Center for Biological Diversity. The bird has been waiting for ESA protection for over four years.

The greater sage grouse can only survive in very specific sagebrush habitat, which currently includes 165 million acres across 11 western states, according to a Monday report in The Hill.

Furthermore, sagebrush habitat is often targeted by energy companies as rich in opportunities for oil and natural gas drilling and any resident species listed by the ESA would impede fossil fuel extraction.

The 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act would allow more decisions on species protection to be controlled at the state level by ignoring scientific data and cherry picking what they want to use.

WildEarth Guardians has taken on the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming over their newly proposed grouse plan amendment, which would reverse previous practices to block permits for gas and oil leasing in Core Areas of the bird’s habitat.

President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the new Republican bill if it were to reach his desk, because the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) argues it would “rigidly constrain science, public input, and data in making Endangered Species Act determinations.”

The greater sage grouse, with its exotic mating dance that has been described as “one of the most stirring and colorful natural history pageants in the West”.