Tell Secretary Zinke not to dismantle Sage-Grouse conservation plans

The Department of the Interior is considering weakening or eliminating habitat protections for Greater Sage-Grouse;

comments due Friday, August 4

By David O’Neill

Chief Conservation Officer

National Audubon Society

Once numbered in the millions, the Greater Sage-Grouse has declined precipitously due to widespread habitat destruction. To help save this iconic bird, many stakeholders’ states, ranchers, conservationists, industry, scientists, and federal agencies’ collaboratively developed a balanced conservation plan to protect 67 million acres of habitat for the sage-grouse and 350 other species. These plans also ensure sustainable economic growth for communities across the West.

Now, the Department of the Interior is considering weakening or eliminating these vital habitat protections by ordering a review of the plans. You can help by weighing in with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Tell him to maintain the Greater Sage-Grouse protections. The deadline to comment is Friday, August 4. From court challenges to backdoor attempts to put harmful language in must-pass Congressional bills, anti-conservation interests have been working to tear apart the conservation plans since they were adopted. Each time, Audubon members have raised their voices and succeeded in defending this historic conservation effort.

The birds need your help today.

The Department’s review raises concerns that habitat protections could be weakened or eliminated by exploring “creative approaches” that are alternatives to protecting habitat, such as captive breeding and setting population targets state by state. Neither approach is supported by applicable science nor experts in the field. The order also emphasizes eliminating burdens on energy development on public lands, not on the conservation of sage-grouse. However, recent studies have shown that very few of the protected areas overlap with high-potential places for oil and gas development. Tell Secretary Zinke that prioritizing energy development over conservation or including scientifically unsupported approaches in conservation plans would spell disaster for these incredible birds. He needs to let the existing plans work.

Put your cursor on either of the colored sections above and it will take you to a site that will help you respond to Secretary Zinke.