Time ticking for sportsmen to sound off on review of iconic game bird

Sportsmen have until Nov. 27 to comment on the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back the important compromise plan to protect western sage grouse.

A year ago in this space, I wrote an upbeat blog commending Congress for not eviscerating the bipartisan sage grouse plan. Unfortunately, the Zinke Interior Department couldn’t leave well enough alone.

Sportsmen have until Nov. 27 to comment on the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back the important compromise plan to protect Western sage grouse. In 2015, after a bipartisan partnership developed a plan between states and private landowners and other nonprofits to preserve sage grouse habitat, the Obama administration decided not to list the grassland species under the Endangered Species Act. Achieving that compromise took months of collaboration involving nonprofits, agricultural producers, and representatives of state and local governments. Bottom line: It kept the species off the ESA, along with all the oversight that accompanies listing on state and private lands.

Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, however, ordered a reassessment of sage grouse protection plans earlier this year, and this week federal officials wrapped up a series of public meetings on the plan. All Americans can review and comment on the plan until Nov. 27. Groups like the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership are urging Zinke not to pursue an overhaul of the plan.

Why should Minnesotans care about a battle over an obscure Western prairie grouse? Because the new plan likely will threaten habitat for the other species, too, like mule deer, pronghorn, elk. Above all, it nukes a solid policy forged through years of  compromise. If Washington allows it to succeed, the agreement could be a model for other potential ESA candidates, including critters that live in Minnesota.

To comment, visit the Federal Register here. If that link should fail, simply visit www.federalregister.gov and search for document number 2017-21958.

For an even faster way to comment, several conservation groups, like the National Wildlife Federation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, also have sample letters you can submit directly.

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