For Immediate Release

December 20, 2022


Josh Osher, Western Watersheds Project, (406) 830-3099

Congress doubles down on the politics of extinction

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a blow to species on both sides of the continent, Congress has proposed year-end omnibus spending legislation that endangers the survival of greater sage grouse and the North Atlantic right whale. The must-pass annual appropriations legislation retains language that first appeared in the FY2015 appropriations bill to prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from even considering whether the greater sage grouse warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This year’s bill also now includes a poison-pill rider that adds loopholes for the lobster and crab industries that exempts them from taking additional measures to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Estimates suggest that there are fewer than 350 right whales remaining, with fewer than 100 breeding females.

“At a time when most global leaders have agreed to protect 30 percent of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030, manage the remaining 70 percent of the planet to avoid losing key habitats needed to support biodiversity, and ensure that industry discloses biodiversity risks and impacts, Congress is going in completely the opposite direction and potentially consigning both of these iconic species to extinction,” said Josh Osher, Public Policy Director at Western Watersheds Project.

Once numbering 16 million birds, the greater sage grouse population has dwindled to a few hundred thousand. The species continues to decline due to impacts from oil and gas drilling, livestock overgrazing that leads to invasion by flammable weeds, habitat fragmentation, and other human-caused factors. It shares abou 60 million acres of sagebrush habitats with a diversity of other native wildlife, and is considered an “umbrella species” that, if protected, would shield scores of other sensitive plants and wildlife from habitat loss and degradation.

“The Endangered Species Act is the most effective tool we have to protect biodiversity and prevent extinction,” remarked Osher. “Riders like these that undermine the ESA and judicial review, are not only a threat to our system of checks and balances, but will embolden future efforts to roll back science-based species protections in the next Congress.”


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1 comment on “Congress throws sage grouse, right whale under the Omnibus

  1. Living in a high desert, sagebrush area, during a time of urban exodus, the lack of appropriate protections is readily apparent. In the sellout to ‘revenue,’ leadership &elected officials in rapid growth areas appear all too eager to re-create the urban nightmare people are fleeing from. They cut right through the middle of wildlife corridors, pave over farms, grow toxic industry without appropriate protections and grant unlimited access to flight training which is a true toxic scourge all to eager to remove habitat obstructions, complainant’s & nearby farms. The monstrosity of ‘progress’ is indeed deeply harming all species, no less endangered ones. What can be done?

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