Some members of the Congressional Western Caucus are not happy with the Administration's proposal to withdraw ten million acres of federal lands via the Endangered Species Act. In a recent letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the lawmakers claim the Administration is using its decision to update the greater sage-grouse land management plans as an excuse to ban development in areas across Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Western Caucus Chair Dan Newhouse said greater sage-grouse habitat management has been an issue throughout his time in Congress. According to Newhouse, most planning and strategy changes depending on the party of the president. Under the Biden Administration, Newhouse expects the responsibility for sage-grouse habitat to return to federal control.

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"What we'll find happen, probably, is just blanket decisions that really aren't tailor-made for the local areas."

Newhouse says he would rather see more control in the hands of local governments, private conservation partners and tribal organizations.

"I'm one of those that likes to see more local control. I think the people that live on the ground and in the communities know much better than bureaucrats back east on what needs to be done."

The letter also urges the Biden Administration to address what the Caucus says are the underlying causes of reduced sage-grouse populations. Invasive grasses like cheat grass have been inundating sage-grouse habitat, making it more prone to wildfire. In turn, when sage-grouse attempt to nest in an area scorched by fire, predators like ravens become a large issue. Ravens account for a majority of sage-grouse nest failures. Newhouse and others are also asking the Department of the Interior to prioritize reducing wild horse and burro populations. The letter claims the animals have populations three times higher than appropriate and their continued existence threatens greater sage-grouse habitat and western rangeland in general.

Click Here to read the entire letter submitted by the Western Caucus. 

Newhouse added that unilaterally locking up the 10 million acres in public lands will have a negative economic impact on rural communities while failing to further protect sage-grouse habitat.

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