Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

Sage Grouse ruling highlights need to improve public land management


In a recent U.S. District Court ruling by Judge Brian Morris, the American public heard loud and clear that the federal administration broke the law when it offered leases on public lands in criti-cal sage grouse habitat. This court decision speaks volumes about how public lands should be managed, with certainty, and in a manner that considers true multiple use – including maintaining wildlife populations. The Department of Interior was found to have violated the law by issuing an instructional memorandum that abandoned the bi-partisan practice from Western governors that prioritizes leasing for oil and gas development outside of sage grouse habitat.

Our organizations were among those that came together and brought this case to court. It was an action we did not take lightly and continue to stand behind it. It was the right thing to do for sage grouse and for holding the federal government accountable for its egregious actions. The federal administration has taken a new and aggressive approach to how our nation’s public lands are managed - a singular focus on poorly-planned energy development above all other uses, while disregarding the public and established science. This goes against Montanan’s values.

Now that the court has ruled in favor of the American public, we urge our congressional delega-tion to focus on restoring sagebrush country in the face of unprecedented incursions of invasive species like cheatgrass, as well as hold the Bureau of Land Management accountable for its ille-gal activities. Populations of sage grouse have declined roughly 44 percent over the last four years. This is our opportunity to do something good not only for sage grouse and our big game herds, but also our local communities and livestock producers today, and in the womb of time, to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt. Investing in good management today means bountiful wildlife populations in the future, as well as healthy range conditions for livestock.

As we celebrate our delegation coming together to introduce and push through the Great Ameri-can Outdoors Act, which combines full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) along with much-needed deferred maintenance funding for our National Park System, we also call upon them to work together to find a better path forward for the manage-ment of our sagebrush country. That effort would benefit over 350 species of animals and plants that rely on big, open country.

In the past, Senator Daines has advocated riders on must-pass legislation that weaken the ap-proach Western states have taken regarding sagebrush conservation. We ask that he stop under-mining the hard work being done by stakeholders across the West, and work with us, rather than against us

Let’s get back to true multiple use of public lands that respects our wildlife and outdoor heritage, have lawful policies that provide certainty to developers, and keep Montana the last best place, all while ensuring good-paying jobs for those who need them.

Larry Berrin is the Executive Director for Montana Audubon. Frank Szollosi is the Executive Di-rector for Montana Wildlife Federation.


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