The U.S. Senate will soon consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As part of NDAA considerations, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) is offering a common sense amendment to improve Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections, one that balances state and local conservation concerns with property rights and military interests.

Senator Lee’s amendment would address concerns over the impacts that a potential listing of the Greater Sage-Grouse (GSG) would have on military operations and property rights. Recent reports from the Army, Air Force and Navy have highlighted that a potential listing could impact training operations, increase land management costs and prohibit military modernization.

In order to address these concerns, this amendment builds on recent conservation successes western states have had and highlights that states, not the federal government, are better suited to handle local conservation efforts. For instance Utah’s State Conservation Plan for the GSG has successfully increased the state’s GSG population almost 40% in recent years. ATR supports this amendment and urges all members of the Senate to do the same.   

Senator Lee’s amendment contains a number of necessary provisions that balance conservation with property rights and military considerations.

The amendment delays the GSG listing in order to allow Governors to effectively implement their state recovery plans. Senator Lee’s amendment would also delist the American Burying Beetle (ABB) which has seen a population surge in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The ABB has also met the Service’s own recovery objectives for the Midwest region and thus should be delisted.

Senator Lee’s amendment is also consistent with the legislative language of the HASC-passed NDAA, which prohibits the listing of the GSG in an effort to encourage state-initiated plans that have proved overwhelmingly more successful than federal efforts.

With the potential listing of the Greater Sage-Grouser coming soon, lawmakers should act now to encourage effective state conservation plans as well as to protect the property rights of their constituents and the U.S. military. Senator Lee’s amendment not only supports more efficient methods of species conservation but also does so while providing for military and property rights concerns. ATR urges all Senators to support this common sense solution.


Photo credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie