LAS VEGAS — A Nevada congressman said he was offended when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell claimed some lawmakers in the West are playing politics over the protection of the sage grouse.
Republican Mark Amodei said the Obama administration is to blame for the conflict over the chicken-sized bird because Jewell and others should be doing more to keep it off the list of threatened or endangered species.
President Barack Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill last week with a provision that barred money from being spent on rules to protect the greater sage grouse and two other subspecies.
Jewell said last week that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue collecting and analyzing data on sage grouse. A decision on whether protections are warranted will be reached by Sept. 30, Interior officials said.
Greater sage grouse range across 11 Western states and two Canadian provinces. Oil and gas drilling, wildfires, livestock grazing and other activities have consumed more than half the bird’s habitat during the past century.
The spending bill provision on sage grouse came after Western lawmakers and representatives of the oil and gas and agriculture industries said a threatened or endangered listing would devastate the region’s economy.
Jewell said it’s disappointing that some members of Congress are “more interested in political posturing than finding solutions to conserve the sagebrush landscape and the Western way of life.”
“Rather than helping the communities they profess to benefit, these members will only create uncertainty, encourage conflict and undermine the unprecedented progress that is happening throughout the West,” she said.
Amodei said Friday that he hopes Jewell will reconsider her “incendiary” communications strategy and try to cooperate with ranchers and others who are doing their best to maintain the bird’s habitat .
“There are a lot of great people working very hard on the sage hen issue in the West, and Interior needs to show some respect to them instead of defaulting to tired political agendas,” he said.