Reid, Heller Release Discussion Draft On Greater Sage-Grouse

Washington, D.C.Nevada Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller today jointly released a discussion draft of the Nevada Sagebrush Landscape Conservation and Economic Development Act. The proposal would conserve sage-grouse habitat in Nevada while providing economic development opportunities to industries and local governments throughout the state. Attached is a copy of the discussion draft.

The Nevada delegation is committed to working on actions that can be taken to help prevent the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing of the Greater sage-grouse, as well as the negative impact such a listing would have on Nevada’s economy. In August, Senators Reid and Heller joined Congressman Mark Amodei at a meeting with top officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior to discuss such efforts.  This federal legislation will complement the work done by the Governor’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Council.

The release of this discussion draft is intended to do just that, start a discussion among Nevadans about the Greater sage-grouse potential listing. Both Senator Reid and Heller have set up an email address for constituents to provide comments on the draft. You can contact Senator Reid’s office at sagegrouse@reid.senate.gov. For Senator Heller’s you can email sagegrouse@heller.senate.gov

“The possible listing of the Greater sage-grouse as an endangered species will have major ramifications on rural life and the economies in Nevada and throughout the west,” said Senator Harry Reid. “It has been a pleasure to work with Senator Heller on this bi-partisan, Nevada-specific proposal to conserve sage-grouse habitat and provide for economic development in the state. Only through cooperation with the Nevada delegation, the State of Nevada and our Federal agencies can we protect this species and our way of life. I hope that the many stakeholders in Nevada that are impacted by this issue will read this discussion draft and provide comments and feedback to Dean and myself.”

“Nevadans are concerned about the impact that listing the Greater sage grouse as an endangered species would have on our economy,” said Senator Dean Heller. “I am pleased to work with Senator Reid on this discussion draft, which would help mitigate the negative effects of such a listing and assist both the Governor and the Sagebrush Ecosystem Council in addressing threats to sage grouse habitat.  A result of much collaboration, this framework provides a path forward to protect our economy, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure Nevadans’ needs are fully met. I look forward to numerous conversations with those who have ideas for finalizing it.”

BACKGROUND, SUMMARY OF DISCUSSION DRAFT

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required by a court order to make a decision whether to list the Greater sage-grouse by September of 2015. Greater sage-grouse habitat is in the sagebrush-steppe landscape that stretches over eleven Western states, including a large portion of the northern part of Nevada.

The Nevada Sagebrush Landscape Conservation and Economic Development Act would conserve sage-grouse habitat by providing permanent protection in unresolved Wilderness Study Areas and Inventoried Roadless Areas—both of which are currently off-limits to development—that overlap with sage grouse habitat by designation them as wilderness.  These areas of non-development will perpetually preserve a portion of sagebrush-steppe landscape that will help aid in the bird’s recovery. The proposal will also provide the option to restore and rehabilitate areas in need before they become Wilderness.

The proposal will also provide land for development purposes by conveying land at or above fair market value and provide for targeted conveyances of land for local government services and development of local economies. Because these proposals are not finalized, local governments are encouraged to submit proposals for land that is needed to grow their economies and community services.

It also directs the Secretary of the Interior to select geothermal development sites in several counties throughout Northern Nevada. These sites would benefit from advance permitting work that would allow quicker development of geothermal energy resources.

Finally, it would create a special account to fund the restoration and rehabilitation of sage-grouse habitat in Nevada. This special account would be funded through the land sales in this proposal and a conservation fee placed on new development in areas identified as sage-grouse habitat. The account will allow Nevada to address one of the primary concerns regarding the sustainability of sage-grouse habitat identified by federal agencies.

Click HERE to see the discussion draft

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