Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet yesterday was one of a group of senators who urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to include full funding for conservation of the Gunnison and Greater sage grouse. The senators wrote a letter to Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochoran explaining that funding for sage grouse conservation is necessary for the preservation of the species. The BLM, Forest Service, and USDA have all asked for funds to use for sage grouse projects. The Senators are urging the committee to honor those requests, in an effort to keep the Greater Sage Grouse of of the Endangered Species List. You can read the entire letter below.
Full Text of the Letter:
Dear Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Mikulski:
We write to urge you to include full funding for conservation of the Gunnison and Greater sage grouse in the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bills. As you know, all of the government agencies charged with protecting these species requested resources to help them carry out their conservation work. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requested funding to implement sage grouse conservation actions, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requested funding for sagebrush ecosystem conservation, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) requested funding to continue implementing their Sage Grouse Initiative to promote conservation on private lands. These funding pools are essential to ensuring that efforts to improve habitat through restoration, enhancement, and conservation easements continue and are effective. These collective efforts represent our best strategy to maintain and conserve grouse populations, and hopefully will help to prevent the need for sage grouse species to be managed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The health of sage grouse populations is directly linked to that of the sagebrush landscape. More than 350 species rely on the sagebrush ecosystem including elk, mule deer and pronghorn. This ecosystem is also an important economic engine in the West, sustaining more than $1 billion in direct and indirect outdoor recreation spending. Ensuring that extractive development is compatible with conservation of this ecosystem is critical to keeping the sage grouse from being managed under the ESA. The BLM, Forest Service, FWS, and NRCS have pursued an unprecedented collaborative effort with states, local governments and businesses to amend resource management plans and develop state plans and strategies that will protect the sagebrush landscape. Fully funding these programs is an opportunity to protect the sage grouse through voluntary, rather than regulatory, conservation efforts.
Thank you for your consideration of this important request.
In addition to Bennet, the letter was signed by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).