Law & Order

More Good News for Motorized Recreation in the Sage Grouse Battles

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes language that prohibits until 2025 the Interior Department from making a decision on whether to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The issue is of critical importance to motorized recreation enthusiasts since the bird’s habitat spans 165 million acres across 11 western states and an ESA listing could threaten closure of roads and trails within that area.  

The states are working with local communities, private landowners and industry to develop comprehensive voluntary efforts that would provide necessary protections, since they are already familiar with the negative consequences of an ESA designation. In 1990, the Interior Department listed the Northern Spotted Owl and then limited logging in federal forests in Washington, Oregon and California. Tens of thousands of timber workers lost their jobs as a direct result. The owl is still on the list and its population continues to decline despite the aggressive tactics. SEMA supports an alternative approach that focuses on establishing and managing smaller recovery zones in cooperation with private and public landowners.

The Interior Department is currently scheduled to make a decision on whether to list the greater sage grouse on the ESA by September 30 as the result of a court settlement with environmental groups. Opponents argue that state-based conservation efforts need more time to demonstrate that they are providing sufficient protection. The NDAA will go to the House of Representatives for a vote in the coming weeks. The Senate has not yet begun action on its version of the bill. 

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at