What’s a bird doing in the National Defense Authorization Act?
What do birds have to do with our nation’s military readiness? I don’t know the answer to that but would like to. The House of Representatives has added a provision to the new defense bill to ensure that efforts to conserve the greater sage-grouse don’t interfere with operations at military sites that are also home to sage-grouse. Some members of Congress say federal plans to keep the bird’s numbers from declining could hinder military training and readiness. But defense officials don’t share that fear. They’ve said publicly they don’t anticipate problems and can get an exemption for national security reasons anyway. If the military isn’t concerned about a fancy-dancing, chicken-sized bird, why is Congress? Why is sage-grouse conservation language in a bill about bombers, tactical combat training, and defense research? Federal plans for sage-grouse conservation, written with input from ranchers, sportsmen and women, and local and state agencies from Idaho and throughout the West, were part of the reason the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t place the sage-grouse on the Endangered Species List. It’s time for lawmakers to stop dancing around the issue. Leave the strutting to the sage-grouse.
Brian Brooks, executive director, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Boise