Letters from the West

Jewell says sage grouse riders leave fate of ranching, sage grouse uncertain

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said riders to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow states to veto sections of federal plans designed to protect sage grouse would leave the status quo in place and cause uncertainty for business and ranchers across the West.

Jewell, who met this week by phone with the Idaho Statesman editorial board, said riders like one written by Republican Rep. Rob Bishop that would delay implementing sage grouse conservation plans for six years "would be very destructive," and make it unlikely her department could downlist sage grouse and remove the threat of harsh restrictions under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

"It prolongs the uncertainty," Jewell said.

But she said Bishop's rider and many other "ugly riders" added to the Defense bill may lead President Barack Obama to veto the bill.

"We do have the President of the United States with a very important pen he's not afraid to use," Jewell said.