Sage Grouse Amendment Pulled from Defense Bill

Sportsmen’s groups are celebrating a rare event this week: A quick victory on Capitol Hill.

And they are thanking the everyday hunter and angler.

The cheers started Tuesday when Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) withdrew his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have torpedoed a years-long conservation effort protecting the Western steppe habitat critical to sage grouse and many other species.

Just last week, sportsmen’s groups pleaded with rank-and-file hunters and anglers to contact their senators urging opposition to the amendment. They had reason to worry: Lee had already garnered support from eight fellow GOP senators, including Dean Heller (NV), Steve Daines (MT), James Inhofe (OK), James Lankford (OK), Jerry Moran (KS), James Risch (ID), Orrin Hatch (UT), and Mike Crapo (ID).

Results came quickly.

“Senator Lee realized that he did not have the votes to pass his amendment (so) he withdrew it prior to its consideration on the floor of the Senate, a victory for sage-grouse, for public lands, and for sportsmen,” said John Gale, Conservation Director for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, one of the groups lobbying against the amendment. “The list of Republicans who were willing to vote against the amendment was extensive and impressive, and the sportsmen’s voice was a big part of the win.”

Of course, nothing is final on Capitol Hill until the president signs or vetoes a bill. And given the powerful interests Lee and his colleagues were representing—energy, mining, agriculture, and development—sportsmen need to keep their eyes and ears open on this issue.