Congressman Mark Amodei, R-Nev., told the Nevada Legislature this week the federal government is finally stepping up to meet its responsibility in the battle over whether the sage grouse is threatened.
The second-term Congressman told a joint session of the Assembly and Senate the battle over whether the bird commonly known as the sage hen should be listed as threatened has been raging for more than a decade.
Throughout that time, Amodei said the federal government has repeatedly asked mining, the energy industry, ranchers and the state what they were doing to mitigate the loss of sage hen habitat in Nevada and the west.
He said through the past decade, the governor’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Council has done “phenomenal work.” But the federal government hasn’t done its part even though the federal government — primarily the Department of the Interior — owns 86 percent of Nevada lands.
“Yet there has never even been a request for resources to do something on the ground,” he said.
Now, finally, Amodei said, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has put $60 million in her budget for the federal part of habitat restoration.
“This is first and foremost a habitat issue,” he said. “It’s not the numbers of birds, it’s fragmented habitat.”
And Amodei said the key problem isn’t encroachment by mining and other human influences; it’s wildfires.
“BLM District managers have permitted about 150,000 acres in mining operations in 20 years. In that same 20-year time period, we lost 6-7 million acres to catastrophic wildfires,” he said. “If it’s really about the habitat, what are we going to do about that primary cause of the loss.”
With the Interior budget actually including funding for Sage Hen habitat restoration, Amodei said it appears finally that Interior is going to do something about fuels.
He said after the 15-minute speech, he was confident that appropriation would survive the budget process.
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